Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama and Afghanistan

A number of commentaries have been published recently exploring President Barack Obama's strategy in Afghanistan.

During the election, Obama promised to withdraw troops, except a non-combat residual force, from Iraq, but increase the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. He saw the mountainous country as the central front against terrorism and vowed to tackle al-Qaeda, which operates both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is less clear whether Obama is intent on stamping out the Taliban or is open to negotiations with that fundamentalist group.

Most of the opinion pieces question whether a "surge" would work in Afghanistan or whether the U.S. might be heading into another Vietnam-like quagmire.

The steady growth and expansion of the Taliban in recent years is well-documented. They now control much of the rural countryside in the eastern and southern parts of the country, and they are closing in on the capital Kabul. It is mainly in the northern areas, where the old "Northern Alliance" was based, and Kabul that U.S. and NATO forces can find any friends in the country.

Taliban forces are holed up in rugged mountain strongholds that are extremely difficult to operate in. Even small areas in this region can only be secured with large numbers of forces, and consequently many supply and communication routes are vulnerable to attackers.

NATO forces also appear to be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. The Taliban, at least, appears to have little trouble finding new recruits even though they have adopted suicide tactics similar to those used by al-Qaeda.

Obama reportedly plans to increase troop strength in Afghanistan by about 30,000 with a lot of the concentration in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar. He also plans to use more private security companies to guard bases and transporation routes. The Kandahar bases is under rapid expansion to host an extra 10,000 U.S. troops.

Pakistan is often mentioned in the same breath as Afghanistan whenever the war is discussed by the new administration officials. Obama has hinted that he will place more pressure on Islamabad to exterminate insurgents in their mists, and that he will take unilateral action in certain instances.

Sky News

Obama's War Fearing Another Quagmire in Afghanistan
New York Times, United States - 16 hours ago
By HELENE COOPER WASHINGTON — Can President Obama succeed in that long-lamented “graveyard of empires” — a place that has crushed foreign occupiers for more ...
President Obama revs up Afghan fight; backseats Iraq at Clinton debut New York Daily News
Obama's Vietnam? Washington Times
Obstacles are many for US in Afghanistan Kansas City Star

No comments:

Popular Posts