THE NEW AFGHAN SURGE
In his speech in the Military Academy of West Point, on Tuesday 12/01/2009 evening, USA President Barack Obama revealed the new strategy to Afghanistan. In the core of the new strategy is a surge of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which will bring the number of USA troops stationed in Afghanistan to about 100,000, in edition to 10,000 NATO soldiers. The surge is an attempt to reconstruct the success of the surge strategy in Iraq from mid 2007. But president Obama also said that “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home”.
He urged Americans not to see the conflict as a new Vietnam War because “unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border”. America is backed by a “broad coalition of 43 nations” he added (see – 7,000 more troops ).
Obama’s speech had made no mention of talking to the Taliban, while the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, pressed for a dialog with the Taliban as part of national reconciliation policy (see – Afghan Reconciliation).
The president said he rejected the option of committing more forces for an undefined mission of nation-building without any deadlines “because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost”. When addressing the situation in neighbor Pakistan President Obama said “We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border”.
Basically the new strategy is based on 3 points and is a positive response to the basic strategy drown by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, putting the focus on stabilizing the regime, securing most of the population and strengthening the capacities of the Afghan security forces.
* Deny Al Qaeda a safe haven..
* Reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow Afghanistan’s government by securing the main towns and populated areas..
* Strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces and government..
* President Obama, although committed himself to more troops in Afghanistan, sets limited goals, which put the war in Afghanistan in a more realistic context – not “nation building” or “imposing democracy”..
* President Obama set a very short time table of three years to achieve tangible success. Three years are suitable to the political time table and the 2012 elections in USA but the Afghan people proved time and again they have a much longer time table of decades and all the time in the world just to let the three years to pass by (see – EXIT STRATEGY )..
* Al Qaeda, used to justify emotionally the war in Afghanistan, is no longer a coherent organization but more an inspiring idea. The last world wide Islamic terror networks uncovered in the Western Democracies were directed by Lashkar-e-Toiba and alike in Pakistan (see – The-Network). Western Muslim youngsters volunteer to fight with al-Shabab in Somalia (see – Minneapolis Network) and home grown terror of independent cells or individuals becomes the major threat in the Western Democracies. The internet is the main recruiting and guiding tool for the Global Jihad and Al Qaeda or alike can easily operate from the mountains of Yemen, from Somalia, the Sahara desert or elsewhere. .
* President Obama referred to Pakistan only briefly. Pakistan is a key player but the fragile political system of Pakistan, the ambiguousness of its Army, the devoted Muslim society and its nuclear capacity, brought Obama, probably, to the conclusion that although cooperation with Pakistan is desirable, there cannot be too many expectations from Pakistan to be a reliable partner in the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has so many problems of its own (see – Wide-Implications).
* In the long term Obama’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan remains, conditioned, ambiguous and limited and this is the bottom line of his strategy.
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