[Guest post by DRJ]
The editors of the UK Telegraph believe President Obama has bowed to U.S. public opinion and his own Party in devising an exit strategy — but not a winning strategy — in Afghanistan:
“After a protracted period of reflection on the future of the Nato mission in Afghanistan, Barack Obama has bowed to the pressure of domestic political realities and unveiled not a victory strategy, but an exit strategy. In authorising a significant surge in US combat forces in the first part of next year, but then giving them just a year to do the job – the withdrawal will start in July 2011 – the President unequivocally signalled his desire for an early end to this mission.
In doing so, he is responding to US public opinion, to the growing unhappiness within his own party with the conduct of the war, and to the demands of the electoral cycle. Waging war while glancing over your shoulder at events at home is never satisfactory. Eight years after the West went into Afghanistan, the country remains a quagmire. The idea that this situation can be transformed in a year or so is fanciful, even with the help of close to 40,000 extra combat troops, three quarters of them from the US. Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, maintains that Afghan forces will not be capable of taking control of security until 2014. The three-year gap between Washington’s assessment and Britain’s is worrying.”
The editors believe Obama has given up on Afghanistan and will instead focus on Pakistan. The Times of India reports what Obama would only hint at: The pull back in Afghanistan may well be matched by an expansion of the war in Pakistan:
“Yet quietly, Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well — if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms.
In recent months, in addition to providing White House officials with classified assessments about Afghanistan, the CIA delivered a plan for widening the campaign of strikes against militants by drone aircraft in Pakistan, sending additional spies there and securing a White House commitment to bulk up the CIA’s budget for operations inside the country.
The expanded operations could include drone strikes in the southern province of Baluchistan, where senior Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, officials said. “The president endorsed an intensification of the campaign against al-Qaida and its violent allies, including even more operations targeting terrorism safe havens,” said an official. “More people, more places, more operations.”
Obama has promised to “put us on a path toward ending the [Afghan] war.” What he isn’t saying is how failing in Afghanistan will help us win in Pakistan.