Sunday, January 20, 2013

"'Mitigating crises & drawdown of US forces overseas"

'In our “drivers” for 2013, we noted that the Administration would view developments in peripheral areas like Africa through the lens of the “war on terror”, but would act with caution. This approach is being born out in Mali and Algeria. Officials have been quick to analyze the events there in terms of Islamist terrorism rather than as manifestations of more embedded tribal, cultural or territorial differences. But they have been equally cautious about intervening on the ground. This could change, but not dramatically so, if US hostages continue to be held in Algeria or elsewhere, but we believe assistance to French forces in Mali will be confined to logistics and intelligence support. Nonetheless, these developments clash with the more positive image of Africa that the Administration was trying to foster through high-profile events like the visit of the new President of Somalia. In his inauguration day speech on January 21st, President Obama is likely to confine his foreign policy remarks to a generic recommitment by the US to maintain its role in the world, but his main focus will be on the need for domestic unity in the face of economic uncertainty. In doing so, he will prepare the American public for a strategy designed to mitigate crises and drawdown US forces overseas rather than build on them for new military engagements. One crisis he may face early in his new Administration could arise in relations with Israel. Following the January 22nd election there, US officials are preparing to deal with an even more hardline Israeli government on the issues of settlements and Iran. From our exchanges with the responsible officials we do not detect any readiness by Washington to accommodate itself to this new alignment in Tel Aviv. But, as always, the politics on Capitol Hill will cause the White House to tread warily...'

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