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28 Mar, 2009 06:30

Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama pledges to send four thousand military instructors to Afghanistan and urges the people of Pakistan to unite to drive Al-Qaeda from the region.

Following a recent decision to deploy an additional 17,000 military contingents to Afghanistan within the next few months, Obama has now ordered four-thousand more troops to be sent into the country in support of the U.S. Army. The decision has been made as a part of the new strategy of the United States in Pakistan and Afghanistan, unveiled on Friday by President Obama at a news conference in Washington.

Obama said the U.S. will accelerate its efforts “to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000” so that these goals could be met by 2011.

The aim of the new strategy is to guarantee stability along the border between the two countries, followed by a decrease in troop numbers in Afghanistan.

“I need the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused role to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That’s the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you!” said Obama.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has welcomed the new strategy and promised full cooperation:

"This is better than we were expecting it as a matter of fact. And we back it and hope to go for it to full implementation", said the president.

Originally, America went to Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden, disable Al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban.

Years of the Afghan war have killed hundreds of American soldiers, and left thousands wounded without getting close to “mission accomplished”.

Some analysts have already dubbed the war “Obama’s Vietnam."

“I think as Obama gets deeper into it, we’re going to divert more resources into supporting that war. It’s going to end up – and many people think that it’s going to end up as a disaster,” says Danny Schechter, News Dissector blog author.

Rising violence in Pakistan has been fueling doubts about its Western-leaning government’s ability to counter Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, also blamed for attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.

“US military presence in Afghanistan making Taliban stronger”

“It’s going to be an uphill fight to eradicate the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute in the U.S.

The expert recalls that other U.S. ‘nation-building episodes' have failed, and according to Eland, this one is likely to fail as well.

Despite President Obama’s sense of realism, the Taliban is too strong and the U.S. military presence is making it stronger in many respects, said Eland.

“It’s going to be an uphill fight to eradicate the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, the U.S. nation-building mission in Afghanistan has caused increased Taliban and militant activity in Pakistan. So, I am not sure that the U.S. action is stabilising the region. I think it’s destabilising the region,” he said.

Eland added that a great deal of money that the U.S. is providing, and will continue giving to Pakistan to fight the Taliban, goes to the Taliban itself. So in its way, the American administration is indirectly supporting those it intends to fight.

“Obama’s approach is exactly right”

Spencer Boyer, the Director of International Law and Diplomacy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, backs Obama’s approach to link Pakistan and Afghanistan-related issues together.

In his opinion, Obama’s approach is “exactly right”.

“First, looking at the region as a whole, realising you can’t really separate out Afghanistan from Pakistan, realising that the security concerns are linked there,” noted Boyer.

Providing additional funding is very helpful too, he added, and not just for the military needs but also for the civilian sector.

“And I also think that the approach is correct in terms of focusing on the training of Afghan security forces. That hasn’t been done as well as it could over the past two years,” Boyer continued.

Speaking of the extra funding for Pakistan, Spencer Boyer said that what the country was getting was not enough to develop democratic institutions, or a ‘civilian capacity’ within both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The new plan will help stabilise the whole region and make sure Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations do not spread their influence there.

Even Russia may benefit from the new plan, which is also aimed to help fighting the drug trade in the region, Boyer said.

“Obama’s new strategy on Afghanistan is both containment and engagement”

Obama’s newly unveiled strategy is containment of the spread of narco-terrorism from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which threatens the region and the whole world. But it is also an engagement of other stakeholders, said RT’s military analyst Eugene Khrushchev.

However there is a part missing on Obama’s ‘peace initiative’: a more direct approach to the leaders of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO). We really expected that, and it would be very logical because NATO, as a force, is totally bankrupt, said Khrushchev.

On the positive side, Eugene Khrushchev stressed that President Obama seemed to have taken the Soviet’s negative experience in Afghanistan and put more emphasis on training local forces in defending themselves, rather than completely depending on the U.S. Army. This would help the United States to disengage within time, without being embarrassed and labelled as the defeated side in the conflict.