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U.S. fumbling in Afghanistan

The Obama administration's policies toward Afghanistan are emblematic of its monumental incompetence in foreign affairs ("Pulling the plug on Karzai," July 10). As wrongheaded and harmful as its domestic policies are, at least on the domestic side, the administration knows where it wants to go. In foreign affairs, its ignorance, naivete and indecision have resulted in the loss of one of our strongest allies in the Middle East (Egypt), the death of our ambassador in Benghazi, a total misreading of the "Arab Spring," vacillation in Africa and now the consideration of a path in Afghanistan that would essentially gut any headway that has been made at the cost of thousands of American lives.

The war that "had to be won" is now the war we have to withdraw from as soon as possible. Vali Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins and one of the country's leading experts on the Middle East, has charitably described the administration's policy toward Afghanistan as "meandering." One has to play with the cards one is dealt, and though Afghan President Hamid Karzai may be a wild card, it appears that he was correct in believing that the ultimate U.S. goal was negotiation with the Taliban which we pursue from positions of increasing weakness.

President Karzai's instability derives largely from his distrust of this administration, a distrust proven to be well-founded. If Iraq was George W. Bush's war, make no mistake about it, this was President Barack Obama's. It goes without saying that the Taliban will simply wait — and it will succeed by waiting. The administration, by committing to withdraw without any return commitment from its adversary, has played its ace without getting anything for it.

Thomas F. McDonough, Towson

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