Terrorizing World – "Enough is enough"

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To Fight A Necessary War Barack Obama must stay the course

Posted by :) on September 7, 2009


Gautam Adhikari

Source-TOI


Washington: A disturbing pressure is building up in the United States against the Afghanistan policy of the Barack Obama administration. It’s disconcerting for South Asia, certainly for India, and it should make the world uneasy. But no one can do much about it unless President Obama remains determined to resist that pressure.
A new opinion poll says that more than half the people of America – 53 per cent – want US forces to get out of Afghanistan. That

proportion, of Americans against US forces going to Afghanistan, was just 6 per cent in a poll taken in 2002, shortly after the war had begun. Meanwhile, reports suggest that the Taliban appears, for the moment, to be winning by becoming a more potent adversary than before through improved tactics. Add to that the inability of the US forces to protect Afghan citizens, and the pressure on Obama for a unilateral US withdrawal mounts by the day.
In his election campaign, Obama had described the Afghan war as “necessary” for long-term US and global security, in sharp contrast to the resource-draining and unnecessary Iraq war launched by the Bush administration. In power, he has so far not wavered from that position. Earlier this year, he announced a
new approach towards Afghanistan, pointing out that the previous administration had starved that war of attention and resources. He changed the top leadership of his armed forces there, sanctioned increased manpower and asked Congress for more money.
In any democracy, however, public opinion matters. And public opinion amplified through the megaphone of 24-hour news media cannot be ignored. Today, public opinion in America is not as supportive generally of Obama as it was in the initial months of his presidency. At the same time, his attention
span is dominated by a raging debate over his health care reforms initiative, which he still has to sell convincingly to a majority of the people amidst a growing feeling that he is unable to do so. Selling the Afghan war as necessary in such circumstances is going to be hard.
Yet, for the sake of American and world security, he must remain resolute. He must convince the American public that Afghanistan cannot be abandoned again, like it was after the Soviet forces had withdrawn 20 years ago. The rise of the Taliban to power, with active assistance and tactical guidance from Pakistan’s armed forces, was an outcome of that earlier neglect. Today, the long-term security and stability of Afghanistan and, more importantly,

of Pakistan must remain the world’s clear goal.
Obama, therefore, has to answer his critics. To cite an example, the influential conservative columnist George Will on Tuesday last recommended, in an article in the Washington Post entitled ‘Time to Get Out of Afghanistan’, that US forces should be substantially reduced. The US should “only do what can be done from offshore”. Instead of stationing troops there, it should use “intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous border with Pakis
tan, a nation that actually matters”.
Yes, that’s precisely it. Pakistan matters. And that’s why it is imperative that the US maintains a powerful presence in the area, especially on that porous border. For what Will recommends is like what the Bush administration did for many years: kept a small number of troops in Afghanistan and outsourced the war not so much to a weak team of NATO troops but, effectively, to Pakistan’s army and intelligence forces. In other words, they let the fox guard the chicken coop. Moreover, the Bush administration gave Islamabad’s then military rulers, with scarcely any supervision, huge sums of money to boost the army’s capacity to take on the Taliban and al-Qaeda; in fact, as reports later revealed, the money went some
way to boost that army’s nuclear and conventional capabilities against a traditional adversary, India.
To be fair, the Bush administration realised what was happening late in its second term. It then mounted pressure on Islamabad to take serious action. And it did its bit to encourage the return of democratic politics in Pakistan. President Obama has not only continued that revised policy, he has intensified it by leaning harder on Islamabad and by increasing the US armed presence in the area. We must continue to hope that the US will help Islamabad to carry on a genuine fight against all terrorists and the Taliban within its territory for the sake of Pakistan’s very survival.
For, the Taliban has to be tamed within Pakistan before the capacity
of the Afghan Taliban to wreak mayhem can be effectively rolled back. The world, with an unwavering commitment from the US, will have to support Pakistan’s democratic forces while choking those shadowy folk in the Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistan’s army who tell their pet hare how to run while they hunt with the hounds.
In short, Obama has to stay the ground. More, he has to go out and tell the people why the stability of Afghanistan-Pakistan is vitally important for America’s as well as the world’s safety.
The writer is a former executive editor of this paper.

Staying put is the way ahead
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