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Dec 2nd, 2009


Obama’s Afghan Plan Represents Big Gamble

Weak partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan raise questions about strategy

Image: President Barack Obama speaks to reporters after his meeting with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, left, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
President Barack Obama speaks to reporters after his meeting with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, left, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington on May 6, 2009. (Photo credit: Charles Dharapak / AP)


Dec. 2, 2009

KABUL – President Barack Obama is holding an uncertain hand in his high-stakes gamble in the fight against Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Weak partners in both countries, doubts about the speed of building up Afghan security forces and allies reluctant to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the battle all raise questions about the strategy.

If all goes well, U.S. troops can begin heading home in July 2011, Obama said. The White House says Obama set this date to make sure Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government knows it has limited time to reform itself and take charge of security.

Yet nearly every step presents difficult challenges – problems that festered over eight years of international neglect after the Bush administration shifted its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq once the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 had ousted the Taliban from power.

The threefold plan, unveiled Tuesday during a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, calls for:

  • Sending 30,000 U.S. reinforcements to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and bolster Afghanistan’s security forces within 18 months.
  • An accelerated program to boost the notoriously weak and corrupt Afghan government.
  • Partnership with Pakistan, where many al-Qaida figures including Osama bin Laden are   believed hiding.

… Even with greater support, both Afghanistan and Pakistan are led by weak governments that lack the political power to meet some of America’s goals. …

Each is critical to success, and each presents unique and nearly intractable problems.

With Afghanistan, the goal is to rid the government of corruption, including links to drug trafficking, and to bolster its ability to deliver services to its citizens – a necessary step to win popular support. …

In Pakistan, the challenge of building an effective partnership has been dogged by a spike in anti-Americanism led by elements of the security forces and increasing doubts over the stability of the weak, civilian government.

Since 2001, the U.S. has given the Pakistani army billions of dollars to try to get it to fight Islamic militants along the Afghan border. Starting last year, the U.S. began a sustained program of covert missile strikes against militant targets close to the border.

The results have been mixed. Militancy has spread throughout the northwest and is slowly creeping into the nuclear-armed country’s heartland. …

Many Western officials and analysts believe Pakistan is playing off both sides – accepting U.S. funds to crack down on Pakistani militants while tolerating the Afghan Taliban in the expectation that the radical movement will take power in Afghanistan once the Americans withdraw.

Well aware of America’s problems, the Afghan Taliban scoffed at Obama’s plan, saying it would only lead to more American casualties.

“Throughout the history of Afghanistan, the Afghans have not been subjugated through deceits, ploys … and military might of the foreigners,” the Taliban said in a statement released in English. “Therefore, the reinforcement of the American troops and other tactics will not have impact.”

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Related report in this site

Obama Speech on Afghanistan (Dec. 1, 2009)

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 2, 2008


U.S. soldiers secure the area of a car bomb after it detonated close to the police academy on Palestine Street in central Baghdad, Dec. 1, 2008, killing 15 and wounding 45. (Photo credit: Ali Yussef / AFP – Getty Images)

Iraq ‘Biggest Regret’ – Bush

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that President George W. Bush said the biggest regret of his presidency was flawed intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, telling ABC World News in an interview airing December 1, 2008 that he was unprepared for war when he took office.

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