The latest crisis in Afghanistan strikes at the heart of the U.S. strategy for preventing the country from reverting to Taliban rule or becoming a base for al-Qaida. If those goals are to be achieved, the Afghan security forces that have been recruited, trained and equipped at enormous cost over the past several years must be sustained — something that will require continued training and advising by NATO, and heavy outside funding, for many years to come. That prospect seemed to be endangered recently when four U.S. soldiers were killed by Afghans in uniform. After an attack inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, U.S. and NATO advisers were withdrawn from all ministries.

The probable trigger for the latest attacks was the mistaken but inexcusable burning of Qurans at the U.S. air base in Bagram.

The popular backlash in Afghanistan nevertheless reflects deeper problems. There is understandable weariness with foreign troops after more than a decade of inconclusive war; resentment at the death of civilians in NATO operations; and frustration with the corruption and fecklessness of a U.S.-backed government. The Obama administration’s setting of politically motivated timetables for troop withdrawals and aggressive pursuit of negotiations with the Taliban has convinced many Afghans that the U.S. is preparing to abandon the country.

The only secure and honorable means of exit is to finish the work of creating an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban and other extremists, with backup from U.S. special forces and air power. If the Obama administration chooses to accelerate the timetable or significantly reduce the funding — and thus the size — of Afghan forces, it will become nearly impossible.

The Washington Post (March 1)

Oil sands exaggerations

Andrew Weaver, the respected Canada research chair in Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, and a lead author with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently confirmed what we’ve been saying in this space for a long time: that the demonization of Alberta’s oil sands is vastly disproportionate to its actual impact.

The oil sands have been called a global “carbon bomb” by activist Bill McKibben. Their development will be “game over for the planet,” according to James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The oil sands have, in effect, become the whipping boy of the global environmental movement, which is also fighting a proxy war against the oil sands by opposing the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Yet, developing the oil sands will not result in climate Armageddon. Extracting the resource will not be game over for the planet. As for a carbon bomb, there is one of nuclear proportions, but it is not the oil sands. It is coal, as we have repeatedly noted in attempting to bring some perspective to the shrill rhetoric surrounding the oil sands.

An analysis conducted by Weaver and co-author Neil Swart on the impact of various fossil fuels on future global temperatures reaffirms this.

As for the current state of affairs, they offer this: “If only the reserve under active development were combusted, the warming would be almost undetectable at our significance level.” Burning the world’s coal reserves, by comparison, would have a warming potential of almost 15 degrees centigrade. Their study appeared in the publication Nature Climate Change, an affiliate of the highly respected science journal, Nature.

Calgary Herald, Alberta (March 1)