Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

February 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Fulfilling a campaign plan and meeting widespread expectation, President Obama has decided to send about 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, Politico reports.

Obama cited a direct threat to the United States from Al Qaeda as part of the rationale for his decision.

“The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action,” Obama said, announcing the deployment in a written statement. “The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.”

Obama said he approved a request from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring, and an Army Stryker Brigade and the support forces later this summer. He said the upcoming drawdown in Iraq allows him to move more troops into Afghanistan.

Obama has announced a 60-day review of his Afghanistan policy but had to order up these forces sooner because units need to train for their new mission, and commanders want them in place ahead of the traditional fighting season as the weather improves.

This development should come as a surprise to no-one. The security situation in Afghanistan has been going downhill for some time, with the New York Times reporting a40% jump in civilian casualties in 2008. This news follows fast on (but is almost certainly not in reaction to) an opinion piece written today by Major General Jim Molan of Australia, who was chief of operations of the multinational force in Iraq in 2004-05, in which he calls for a major increase in the size of the NATO force in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan Deals with the Taliban, Obama Remains Silent

February 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Three days ago the Pakistani government made headlines when it announced a deal that it would accept a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and effectively concede the area to Taliban militants. While the Obama administration has remained silent on the issue, officials have admitted that it is a major setback for U.S. goals and an admission that the Pakistani government is incapable of defending the western part of the country from the encroaching Taliban.

While this accord seems to fly in the face of the Obama administration’s goals in the region, two days have passed and a Washington Post article reports that the accord seems to have stalled, perhaps due to pressure from the West.

The government’s position on the deal remained unclear, creating further anxiety. President Zardari, reportedly under pressure from the West, went a second day without signing the pact of making public the details of the law system.

Some local leaders in Swat accuse the national government of sabotaging their chance for peace with the Taliban in the valley. However, despite claims that the inhabitants want peace at any cost, there remains uncertainty as to whether the Taliban will abide by the accord.

In the Swat Valley, a second day of confusion and uncertainty about the pact passed Wednesday, with rising hopes and a jubilant peace march among the local population, followed by the brutal killing of a Pakistani TV journalist, Musa Khan Khel. He was apparently seized and shot by fighters while covering the peace march, despite a Taliban offer of a 10-day cease-fire while elements of the accord are implemented.

While Obama’s recent announcement that he will be sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan indicates the seriousness with which he is tackling the war, the situation in Pakistan is outside of the U.S. military’s domain. The U.S. has to rely on air strikes from drones and the Pakistani military but the recent accord made with the Taliban in the Swat valley seems to be a blatant attempt on behalf of the Pakistani government at appeasement, risking legitimizing the militants and complicating the U.S. mission in the region.

Delegations from Pakistan and Afghanistan will arrive next week in Washington for high-level talks, but between now and then, the remainder of the 10-day implementation period for the accord will elapse, making the next 7 days critical in shaping how the Obama administration will react.

–Ella Lipin, Trinity ’10

A central question for the Barack Beat

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Where does the United States go first to shape then sustain Muslim world policy in the Barack Obama presidency?

The argument for Gaza becomes weighty if the index is human misery, misery on a level, even without international coverage (limited by Israeli censors). It is pitched most poignantly in the Will Youmans blog posted on the Palestine Center website.

As President Barack Obama assumes office, his first diplomatic overture to the region should be to immediately address Palestinian suffering in Gaza. Treating Gaza’s health care crisis with action would go a long way to address the urgent medical needs of Gazans and re-position the United States, whose image suffered tremendously due to the government’s complicity in the recent Israeli offensive, as a force of good in the region.

As Palestinian hospitals and doctors struggle to care for the wounded, any medical relief steps by the United States would help fill an urgent shortage in medical care, and send a powerful message to the Arab world. Amjad Atallah, director of the Middle East Task Force at New America, proposed early on that the United States should “do something to show everybody, the Arab world, the Muslim world, that the US cares and empathizes with the casualties that have resulted from this conflict.”[1] He recommended the United States set up a field hospital on the Egyptian-Gaza border with the International Committee of the Red Cross shuttling the injured out of Gaza.

Is Youmans, a 24/7 Palestine watcher, right? What would be the consequence of this bold act for other steps forward in hearts and minds diplomacy, with George Mitchell, he of Irish peace fame, in the driver’s seat for the Obama administration?

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