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Richard Haass: 'The rationales are still weak' for Obama's Afghan commitment

President Obama flew to Afghanistan Tuesday for the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

President Obama flew to Afghanistan Tuesday for the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. And he used the occasion to announce an agreement with the Afghan government that calls for some U.S. forces to remain in the country beyond the 2014 withdrawal date in order to target al Qaeda, and for the U.S. to provide economic aid through 2024.

On Morning Joe Wednesday, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations identified plenty of unanswered questions about the commitment.

“What’s the size of the [U.S.] force?” Haass asked. “What’s going be the size of the Afghan force? Who’s going to pay for the Afghan force? How much is it going to cost?”

Haass also said there are “real questions about why this should work, given still the corruption and divisions within the Karzai government.”

Indeed, Haass argued, it’s not even clear what the end goal is. “I think the rationales are still weak,” he said. “ What is it we are really trying to do? To put it another way: Why do we need to do this in Afghanistan if we’re worried about al Qaeda? What’s so different now about Afghanistan than Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and all these other places.”

Joe Scarborough agreed. “Afghanistan now is not as central to al Qaeda’s operations as Yemen,” he said.

“We had a goal – and that goal was to rid Afghanistan of al Qaeda’s power structure. And we succeeded,” Scarborough went on. “And then we moved the goalposts, and now it’s to rebuild the country.”

And Scarborough sounded deeply skeptical about the chances for success in that mission. “[W]e’re going into another decade partnership with one of the most corrupt leaders on the planet,” he said, referring to Karzai. “It makes no sense. We’re wasting $2 billion a week and young Americans are dying every week.”

Haass said the open-ended commitment could end up tying U.S. hands indefinitely.

“To what extent is there an element now that the United States has hitched its wagon to an Afghanistan that’s not run by the Taliban?” he asked. “I think that really remains to be seen.”