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President Obama’s Afghanistan Strategy Mark David Derham American Military University
Running head: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY 2 In early 2009, President Obama announced a revised strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Since the war in Afghanistan is not a unilateral war, it affects many nations including the U.S., Afghanistan, and many NATO members that currently have troops deployed in Afghanistan. Pakistan is also affected by the war both due to displaced persons flowing in Pakistan from the war, and because their tribal region along the Afghan border is being used as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s use of Pakistan’s tribal region as a safe haven should be a concern to the entire international community since Al-Qaeda has conducted terrorist attacks worldwide (Bajoria & Bruno, 2009, para. 3). This inexplicably ties nearly every global state to the war in Afghanistan. Global security hinges on the U.S. and NATO being able to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama announced a three tiered strategy for Afghanistan. First, he will increase the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in order to train local police and security forces. His goal is to create an Afghan security force capable of maintaining without foreign assistance. Afghan security forces will not be able to provide Afghanistan the security it needs without their border with Pakistan being secured. This will be accomplished by his second step which will be to provide monetary support to Pakistan in exchange for a more aggressive military campaign against terrorists. Defeating terrorism and creating a shield of security in Afghanistan will mean little without government and economic stability. Thus, the final action Obama will take is to develop Afghanistan’s government by increasing the civilian force to eradicate the illicit drug trade and promote public services (Lee, 2009, press video). Obama’s Afghanistan strategy has some similarity to prior President Bush’s strategy. Obama’s plan calls for a 30,000 troop surge and Bush did the same thing calling for a 20,000 troop surge in 2007 (Loven, 2009, para. 2-5). Obama’s strategy also calls for establishing an
Running head: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY 3 Afghanistan government that can sustain itself. This is exactly what Bush was attempting to do by holding Democratic elections. There are two major differences in the two president’s strategies. First, Obama has set a timeline for withdrawal believing that a timeline is important to have a clear goal to work towards (Lee, 2009 press video). Bush believed setting a timeline would allow the enemy to lay dormant until the U.S. was done with the war then the terrorists would regroup (Loven, 2009, para. 14). The second difference is Bush relied on Pakistan’s former President Musharraf to defeat terrorists within his country giving him aid without restrictions (National Security Network, 2009, para. 2). Obama will still be giving Pakistan economic aid but only as long as Pakistan wages an aggressive campaign against the safe havens in their tribal region that gives tangible results (Lee, 2009, press video). It is critical that Obama’s new strategy succeeds. Currently, Afghanistan is the central hub of terrorism. If Afghanistan is allowed to be controlled by the Taliban, it will create a launching point for all future terrorist attacks. The fact that no country in the past has been able to figure out how to create a stable Afghanistan is very worrisome. The ability of the U.S. to succeed where no other state has before suggests failure is highly likely. However, failure is not an option, otherwise, global security will suffer. The U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the central tenants of this case study. The U.S. is the sole reason for the ongoing war in Afghanistan. They are also the major actor attempting to create global security through eradication of terrorism. Pakistan is integral to the war in Afghanistan due to their border being a major safe haven for terrorists. Despite a heavy U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, terrorists still maintain a significant resistance to this military force by crossing the border into Pakistan’s tribal region. Without Pakistan’s full military support, the war effort in Afghanistan means nothing. Afghanistan is included in this study since
Running head: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY 4 they are the shattered state where the war on terrorism began and is still being waged. The U.S. wishes to create a stable democratic government in Afghanistan, but the tribal division within Afghanistan does not create an atmosphere of nationalism. Stability in Afghanistan is critical, because the U.S. views terrorism as the future means of conducting war. Conventional war has been taken over by an unconventional means of fighting. Afghanistan is the current battle ground to defeat terrorism, and the Taliban, along with Al-Qaeda must fall otherwise global security is at stake. Afghanistan’s different tribes are not a cohesive nation nor do they desire this. This is the main reason that a strong government has never been able to be established in Afghanistan. Without a sense of nationalism, a democratic government is not possible. The U.S. must find a way of creating a stable government without breaking Afghanistan into several smaller states. Pakistan on the other hand has more issues than terrorism to deal with. The economic and political status of their country is dire, and they are currently in the top ten on the Failed State Index (Foreign Policy, 2009, state chart). Pakistan cannot even provide their people with the basic services that are required of a government. Not only that, Pakistan has a large portion of their forces deployed to their Eastern border as a deterrent against India’s aggression. India and Pakistan have a long feudal history, and tensions rose after the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year. The U.S.’s national interest is the protection of their citizens from terrorism. This has proven to be extremely difficult, and their ability to do this was recently questioned when a suicide bomber came close to destroying an airplane full of passengers over Detroit on Christmas day (Ramstack, 2010, para. 1). This makes success in Afghanistan pivotal to the United States. Pakistan’s national interest is to gain international assistance and an improved image through participating in the fight against terrorism (Baig, 2008, para. 10). At the moment, terrorism is
Running head: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY 5 playing right into their hands. Their tribal region is a major safe haven for terrorists and as long as that remains, Pakistan will likely keep receiving much needed monetary assistance. This gives Pakistan an improved international image and economic assistance. The U.S.’s strategic and national interests will be met as long as Obama’s plan to train the Afghan security forces into a self-sustained force works. Otherwise, the U.S. will be stuck in Afghanistan for years. This will not be plausible since U.S. public support has been waning for years over both the current wars. Pakistan will also meet its interests through the economic assistance they are receiving as long as they take the fight to the terrorists in their country. Pakistan will also become more stable once their tribal region is no longer a safe haven for terrorists. This will allow them to shift their attention to their countries’ struggling economy. Afghanistan’s desire to be an independent nation free from foreign states will come to fruition as long as they are able to maintain a trained security force and find a means of melding the different tribes in their country. Obama’s new strategy is simple, defeat the Taliban within Afghanistan and Pakistan and create a stable government in Afghanistan that will be able to withstand the test of time. His strategy is likely the only viable option at the moment. Pakistan has proven in the past that they require economic assistance in return for cooperation. The real issue is do they have what it takes to defeat the Taliban in their tribal region? The answer is likely no due in part to the weak civilian government that has been instituted. The U.S. must gain access in order to launch a multi-axis attack against a devious enemy. Without a stable Afghanistan, terrorism will continue to thrive. Once the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, there is little doubt that it will not succumb to the Taliban again unless the U.S. is able to completely defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which is the mission of Obama’s new strategy.
Running head: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY 6 References Baig, A. (2008). War on terrorism in Pakistan’s national interest. Word Press. Retrieved from http://presidentmusharraf.wordpress.com/2008/06/23/war-on-terrorism-in-pakistansnational-interest/. Bajoria J. & Bruno G. (2009). al-Qaeda (a.k.a. al-Qaida, al-Qa'ida). Council on Foreign Relation. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/publication/9126/#p4. Foreign Policy (2009). The Failed State Index 2009. Retrieved from http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/06/22/2009_failed_states_index_interactive_ map_and_rankings. Lee, J. (2009). A new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The White House Blog. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/27/A-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-andPakistan/. Loven, J. (2009). Obama's Afghanistan strategy has echoes of Bush. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/obamas-afghanistanstrate_0_n_376631.html. National Security Network (2009). The roots of Pakistan’s deterioration: Bush looked Musharraf in the eye. Retrieved from http://www.nsnetwork.org/node/1300. Ramstack, T. (2010). Airline bombing attempt revamps international security. All Headline News. Retrieved from http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7017458501.
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