Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama's New Afghan Policy

In The Atlantic, here

"...According to people who have been briefed on the results of the policy review, Obama plans to emphasize results-driven cooperation with both countries. He will endorse a Senate bill, authored by Sens. John Kerry and Richard Lugar, that would condition a significant increase in aid to Pakistan on measurable improvements in Pakistan's internal efforts to combat terrorism. (President Obama and Vice President Biden were cosponsors of the bill in the Senate.)

In seeking to reassure Americans that help to Pakistan is contingent on internal reforms, he plans to stress that Americans will work with those in both countries who demonstratively seek peace and reconciliation.

This will be interpreted as a warning to both President Asif Ali Zardari in Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Pointedly, the new Afpak policy does not express a preference for specific leaders, another difference from the previous administration, which had been accused of coddling and courting Karzai and former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf at the expense of rooting out corruption and terrorism. Afghanistan holds elections later this year, and the U.S. hasn't found a candidate it likes.

The Americans will lean on Zardari to end his military's ongoing cooperation with the Taliban. Some analysts may interpret the new American policy to mean that the U.S. is open to working more closely with the leader of the main opposition party in Pakistan, Narwaz Sharif.

A few weeks ago, Obama announced that an additional 17,000 U.S. troops would be sent to Afghanistan. Tomorrow, he plans to spell out their mission. 4,000 additional troops will be tasked with training Afghan soldiers and the national police; the administration hopes to have more than 130,000 soldiers and 82,000 police officers trained by 2011. The rest of the troops will be given expanded counter-terrorism assignments and charged with defeating Al Qaeda, not just killing them in isolation.

It is not clear whether Obama will mention Iran by name -- I think he probably will -- but he will ask neighboring nations to form a working group to handle disputes and plan longer-term initiatives. It will be clear, in any event, that Iran ought to be included in the group.

The new bearing reflects Vice President Joe Biden's imprint. He has been arguing internally for a more focused counterterrorism mission rather than a larger, more complex counterinsurgency mission, which would involve significantly more American resources and troops. Though the President plans to endorse the concepts of counterinsurgency as a means to fight the Taliban, it will not be the primary objective of U.S. and NATO troops. U.S. policy also focuses on improving the legitimacy of Afghan government institutions by endorsing anti-corruption drives, by devoting U.S. resources to counternarcotics missions, and by providing basic goods and services to Afghans outside Kabul.

Administration officials briefed Congress on the outlines of the policy this afternoon; NATO and EU countries were looped in on Wednesday.'"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan has justly earned its reputation as the graveyard of empires over the millenia. If Pakistan is powerless to stop the Taliban, then we will have trouble succeeding in Afghanistan. One poster yesterday blithely stated that what Russia did in Afghanistan has no bearing on the US activities. That couldn't be farther from the truth. If the US, as the Russians did, reach a point where it has no clear objective [no, defeating the Taliban is not a clear objective], little local support because they don't fear the US as much as the other guy, and an ineffective local/national government, then the time there could be miserable indeed.

Take care, Lorne