Obama has finally announced his plans with regards to Afghanistan. His plans are outlined here.
Why I like it:
1. He didn’t blindly heed General McChrystal’s view that chucking troops at Afghanistan will solve the problem.
2. Announced July 2011 as the date when U.S. forces in Afghanistan will begin handing over security responsibilities to Afghan soldiers and policemen. It’s good he recognises the importance of training up Afghanis to deal with the Taliban – but I feel that’s too early. We’ll have to see, as so far it’s only a tentative goal.
3. He recognises that the Hamid Karzai govt has become deeply corrupt and unless that is addressed – chucking money and troops won’t work.
4. It’s enough time for Pakistan to work on and sort out its own Taliban problem – which really is the main issue here. Without Pakistan, the Taliban cannot survive. If Pakistan manages to completely pulverise the Taliban then they won’t be as much of a menace in Afghanistan.
5. Civilian aid to Afghanistan will be restructured to epmhasise agricultural development instead of big reconstruction projects to revitalise its economy.
1. The problem is Pakistan too. I don’t think they’ve quite given up the idea of controlling Afghanistan, or at least preventing it from having Indian influence. So the tendency to use the Taliban to control Afghanistan continues unless it is offered some incentive not to.
To that extent – my main criticism is that India and Pakistan should have been brought closer into the equation. Unless they both also worth to strengthen the current Afghani government against the Taliban – this surge won’t work for very long.
These documents, which illustrate that the Soviets faced the same problems in the 80s, make the same point: that the Soviets failed because they couldn’t bring in an international coalition. My fear is that Obama will fail at that unless he is planning to actively work that angle once signalling his own commitment.
2. Even then, the commitment still doesn’t go far enough. In 5 years time Afghanistan may revert back into Taliban hands, in which case the whole area will become destabilised again and al-Qaeda will once again use it as a base for activity.
3. There is the danger that by adopting Bush’s war as his own – he ends up owning it and ultimately falling with it. But Obama has made the choice to make a sensiblle, principled decision instead of one that benefits him only politically.
4. It will cost a lot. Around $1million a soldier – money that may have been better off spent somewhere else.
But to the honest, this was probably the best decision out of the bad choices available to him. At this point I’m more hopeful than optimistic.
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Filed in: Current affairs,India,Pakistan,South Asia