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16 Mar, 2009 10:22

Afghanistan: No End in Sight?

Obama and the Pentagon are reviewing their strategy in Afghanistan, after admitting that the US is losing the war. Dick Cheney has reacted by slamming the new administration’s policies.

As 17,000 more US troops head out, everyone is anxious to hear Obama’s new strategy for winning the war. Thus far, his administration had been unable to provide a clear cut plan. Now he is to announce it publicly at the G20 Summit in London on April 2.

One expectation is that Obama will urge leaders in Afghanistan to work with and pay off mid-level Taliban members. This has drawn increasing criticism as a dangerous path to success. Although a similar strategy was used in Iraq, experts are reminding Obama that this is a different war.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney attacked Obama and his policies in an interview with CNN. Cheney claims the US is now less safe than it was under the Bush administration, following the attacks on September 11. He says that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, as well as labeling waterboarding as a method of torture, will decrease the ability for the US to gather intelligence.

“Now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Cheney said on CNN's ‘State of the Union’.

Cheney’s main criticism was that the Obama administration is treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue rather than a ‘war’. He warned that this will reduce the effectiveness of a US response.

Whether or not Cheney is right, attacks by the Taliban have increased in both numbers and lethality in the past weeks. On Sunday, three separate strings of attacks in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan left at least seven people dead. Four of those killed were soldiers.

One of the main points of the review is expected to be containing the Taliban, as well as providing a greater sense of security for Afghan civilians, and increasing the Afghan armed forces.

“I would say that, at a minimum, the mission is to prevent the Taliban from retaking power against a democratically elected government in Afghanistan and thus turning Afghanistan, potentially, again, into a haven for Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview with National Public Radio last week.

Convincing Pakistan to battle extremist groups is also one of the main goals of the new strategy. Increasing pressure is going to be put on eliminating the safe havens that members of the Taliban find on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pentagon is also undergoing a more general review of their strategies that is conducted every four years. The US military is heavily strained from being involved in two wars. The Pentagon is questioning whether ‘this makes any sense in the 21st century’, Gates said in the interview on National Public Radio.

The biggest concerns are no longer going to war with another nation, but rather battling these smaller, militant groups. Gates claims that fighting this kind of enemy results in a longer, more drawn out warfare.

The announcement of the new strategy in Afghanistan will let the world know if Obama and the Pentagon see an end to this war anytime soon. So far, the prospects look gloomy.

Alyona Minkovski, RT