Posted on 02-12-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Barack Obama’s speech yesterday threw no surprises. (Transcript here).   More troops are headed to Afghanistan (see previous post here) which has caused heartburn on the left.  There are assurances that this is not an indefinite mission and troops are supposed to start coming back by 2011 which has caused conniptions on the right.  There have been the expected harrumphs about fighting corruption and getting the Afghans ready to step up when the Americans leave (original post on Afghanistan from this blog here).

What is unclear whether this is feasible.  If the Afghan army is still a figment of imagination (previous post here) and the Karzai government remains as incompetent (both very likely scenarios) will the United States really start withdrawing to the chorus from Republicans that Obama “lost” Afghanistan?  Hopefully the answer is yes, because the prospect of an American withdrawal may be the only way to jolt the Afghan government to action.

What happens if the Taliban withdraws to its safe havens in Quetta?  Will Pakistan, which only reluctantly turned its guns on its homegrown Taliban, start another fight inside its western border in a province (Baluchistan) already brimming  on the verge of open rebellion?

What about the various NATO allies who have started withdrawing their troops?  Obama’s address noted that Al Qaeda’s attacks had targeted them as well.  Will that be sufficient to overcome the war weariness in those countries? Germany’s top general and deputy defense minister were forced to resign last week over a botched air strike and there are calls for a German withdrawal by 2011.

A successful solution is not entirely in American hands and relies a great deal on lady luck (and on wobbly Pakistan doing its bit).  Obama’s speech was a sober and realistic appraisal of the situation on the ground, but perhaps too optimistic (as such speeches always are) about success in the future (See Juan Cole’s take here).  The “success” of the Iraqi surge may have raised hopes of similar success in Afghanistan, but these are two entirely different societies with very different problems.  The future in Afghanistan remains murky.

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(2) Comments   


Tom Degan on 3 December, 2009 at 10:03 am #

Take this to the bank:

We will lose the war in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, every serviceman or woman who has died there has died for no reason. Russia and merrie old England learned this lesson a long time ago. You would think….Never mind.

Suffice to say, on my best day I do not receive one tenth of the information that President Obama receives. I don’t read any of the Presidential Daily Briefings that are placed on his desk every morning. Obviously he is in possession of a wealth of intelligence that you and I are just not privy to. Maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt – and I have been doing just that, I promise you. But from my vantage point it appears to me that this president has failed to learn the lessons that have been passed onto us down the decades by the administrations of Franklin Delano Rossevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson – lessons involving bold action in times of economic crisis (more on that another day) and the utter folly of waging wars that cannot be won.

Let this be etched in stone:

Any country that would view its women as inferior beings not entitled to basic human rights is not worth one drop of ANYBODY’S blood.

I want to believe in this president. He is the chief executive I worked harder to elect than any other in my lifetime. I realize that it is simply far too early in this administration to write a final assessment of his term of office. That being said, my confidence in the Obama White House is ebbing rapidly. Where in the hell is all of this change I could believe in? Is the Bush Mob still in charge? What gives?


No, I am still exceedingly grateful that John McCain and Gidget von Braun did not win the election last year. Have another sip.

Tom Degan
Goshen NY

Rashtrakut » Blog Archive » Squeezing Pakistan on 9 December, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

[…] the problem the Obama administration is essentially throwing down the gauntlet.  One of the concerns with the Afghanistan surge was that the Taliban could execute a strategic retreat to its Pakistani […]

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