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Obama’s Inherited Wars

By Syed R. Mahmood

President Barak Obama released a statement in response to his being selected for the Nobel Peace Prize for the year of 2009.  He stated, “This award – and the call to action that comes with it – does not belong simply to me or my administration. It belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and peace.”

American History, for the last seven decades has caused the United States a great political damage and resentment against American foreign policy around the Globe. Henry Kissinger, perhaps recognizing this feeling, said “In this world it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be a friend is fatal.”

In a recent article, former Republican Presidential Candidate, Patrick Buchanan writes, “when America is about to throw an ally to the wolves, we follow an established rituals. For our own shortcomings and failed policies, we blamed our allies and friends for incompetence and corruption.”

The Presidency of George W. Bush has further damaged the U.S. reputation around the world. His disrespect of International law, his hypocritical and double standard attitude in foreign policy affairs have eroded respect and trust for the U.S. It may take decades to rebuild our American image.

President Obama’s presidency has brought a new hope around the world.  The general impression among the nations and civilizations is that Obama is serious in promoting peace and friendship with the international communities.

Some internal and external forces, i.e.; Right wing Christian fundamentalists, Israeli lobbies and intelligence agencies, are trying to undermine Obama’s efforts to bring peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Some of these forces would also like to push the United States and Iran into a military confrontation.

The foremost foreign policy challenge for Obama is to wind down the war in Afghanistan. During his campaign, he called this war, a” necessary war.” The situation in Afghanistan is at a stage where the U.S and NATO forces have almost come to a point of defeat. The Taliban has control of a big chunk of Afghanistan.

On December 01, 2009 President Obama outlined his Exit Strategy from Afghanistan. However, It was expected that he will come out with a political strategy. He is sending 30,000 troops at the request of General McChrystal. He also has a plan to draw ‘down’; Obama  has no intention to continue to fight George Bush’s war. Probably by now, he thinks, this war is a waste of resources and human life.

In Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech on December 10,2009, he defended his mission in Afghanistan. He also said that the U.S. military can be a force for good. He warned the world that he has the capacity to use force whenever it is necessary and morally justified.

President Obama’s agenda is to achieve the following objectives in Afghanistan:

    First, pursue a military strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and Increase Afghanistan’s capabilities over the next 18 months.

    Half of ethnic the population in Afghanistan is “ Pushtoon.” The Taliban / Pushtoons are  determined to fight against occupation by foreign forces.  A Taliban leader Maulvi Akhunzade was commanding 400 fighters. He describes the bombing by American planes near Mazar-e Sharif - “The bombs cut down our men like a reaper harvesting wheat. Bodies were dismembered and dazed fighters were bleeding from their ears and noses from the bombs’ concussions. We could not bury the dead. Our reinforcements died in their trenches.”

    Another Taliban Leader Mullah Mohammad, said; “We never worry about time. We will fight until victory no matter how long it takes. The U.S. has the weapons but we are prepared for a long and tireless jihad. We were born here. We will die here. We aren’t going anywhere.”   (Source, Newsweek, October 5, 2009.)

    According to the “counterinsurgency math” of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, “if you encounter 10 Taliban members and kill two, you do not have eight remaining enemies. You have more like 20 - the friends and relatives of the two you killed.” He also said, “the shot you don’t fire is more important that the one you do.”

    The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have proved that waging war on a small or week nations have very expensive and serious consequences, even for a superpower. The Taliban believe that it is their religious duty to fight against a non Muslim foreign army and they consider President Karzai to be a U.S. agent.

    General Davis Petraeus, the Chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,“There is no question you have got to kill or capture those bad guys that are not reconcilable and we are intending to do that.” This statement contradicts Gen. McCrystal’s “counterinsurgency math.”

    Since More than 50% of the Afghans are Pushtoons. How many can the American forces  kill? How are the U.S.forces are going to identify those Taliban?

    What have the U.S. and NATO forces achieved during the last eight years in Afghanistan? A large number of Afghani civilian men, women and children were killed because of U.S.bombings. U.S. and NATO’s casualties are also rising. Hatred against the U.S. is also nearing its peak.

    It does not matter, how many Afghani forces are going to be trained. They will not be able to hold Afghanistan together. The Karzai government will fail and collapse and their soldiers will join the ranks of the Taliban- their Pushtoon brothers. They are a real potent force in Afghanistan. In answering to a question on CNN, Gen. McCrystal said, “They (Taliban) do not fight for money.” It is a movement. This force can be neutralized only through negotiations and reconciliation efforts. In Vietnam, the U.S. was also betting on the wrong horse; the incompetent leaders of South Vietnam. Their army was not motivated to defend their country.

    Second, the Afghan people need to work with the United Nations to pursue a more effective civilian strategy. Getting involved with the United Nations will be a positive step. The Afghan government has to control corruption, improve the governance of the Federal, Provincial and Local government. Improve the agricultural assistance and should not expect more blank checks.

    Third, President Obama said,”we will act with full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.”

    In the past Pakistani people have had a very bad experience with the U.S. After helping Afghan Mujahids (those who struggle for freedom) to defeat the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the U.S imposed sanctions upon Pakistan and never honored some of the treaties. Now there are very serious credibility problems with the Pakistani people.

     During this last October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while in Pakistan faced  very strong encounters with Pakistani audiences. One woman accused the U.S. of conducting “executions without trial” in aerial drone strikes. A tribesman told Hillary,

    “Your presence in the region is not good for peace.” One woman journalist told Clinton, “We are fighting a war that is imposed on us. It’s not our war. It is your war.” You had one 9-11. We are having daily 9-11s in Pakistan.” During her conversation with Pakistani leaders, she constantly found herself on the defensive.

    President Obama is committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. The entire world is looking at Obama to change the tide of this violent world.

    If Obama is serious enough to deal with the cancer of violence, he has to take some pills of courage and determination. He should not be afraid to conduct honest and morally correct domestic and international politics. He should start with the Middle East, then determine how the U.S. should get out from Iraq and Afghanistan with dignity and honor which includes Negotiating with Taliban unconditionally. Offer them an opportunity to be part of the mainstream world politics because the Taliban   are coming back into in power in Afghanistan. It does not matter, how many years U.S. and NATO will stay there. Time is on the Taliban side. Afghanistan does not have any other political force to hold it together.

    There is a window of opportunity to encourage the Taliban to modify their extreme religious interpretation of Islam. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could be very helpful in that the Taliban would view their advise as credible.

Syed R. Mahmood is the founder president of the American Institute of International Studies. He was Republican candidate for 13th Congressional District in 2002.