News / Asia

    Afghan Drawdown Leaves Unanswered Questions

    US Army soldiers in Afghanistan, June 22 , 2011
    US Army soldiers in Afghanistan, June 22 , 2011
    Gary Thomas

    President Barack Obama plans to complete the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September, 2012.  But under the president's plan, some 68,000 troops - more than twice the number that were there when Obama took office - will remain until at least 2014.  The looming troop drawdown has reignited a strategic debate in the United States over its approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    After the president announced the pullout of the 33,000 surge troops, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee dealing with South Asian affairs, issued a statement saying that the U.S. should shift from a strategy of counterinsurgency toward an increased focus on counterterrorism.

    The counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism debate raged in Obama’s policy circle when an Afghan strategy was being hammered out in 2009.  Some advisors, particularly the military, favored counterinsurgency, a troop-heavy approach with a parallel emphasis on reconstruction and “winning hearts and minds.”  Others, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, argued for a narrower counterterrorism program using a limited number of special operations forces focused just on attacking al-Qaida and its allies, including the Taliban, and less nation-building.  Obama eventually came down on the side of counterinsurgency and ordered in the additional troops.

    Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says that moving too far away from counterinsurgency now is a chancy move.

    "I think the notion of going primarily to counterterrorism doesn’t work," said O’Hanlon. "Now, can you change the mix [of conventional and special forces]? Or, can you hope to go to counterterrorism in the future as the Afghans gain the capability to provide that human intelligence and population protection? Yes. But, the pace matters a lot, and it has to be part of a careful plan. What the president essentially did was to throw away the existing plan, in the hope that commanders can make a new one in the face of this much more rapid drawdown.  I wish him well - I wish them all well - but it’s going to be risky."

    Stephen Biddle, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the primary risk for the U.S. is that too hasty a withdrawal could cause the fall of the Afghan government, which he says could create instability along the Afghan-Pakistan border and increase the risk of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands.

    "The issue is whether the return of Afghanistan to 1990s-style anarchy that is likely to result has downstream [future] consequences that hurt us, either because al-Qaida re-establishes bases in Afghanistan - which I actually think is the less consequential of the dangers - or because chaos on Pakistan’s western border destabilizes Pakistan," said Biddle.

    Officials say the remaining 68,000 troops, along with other members of the international coalition, will keep the military pressure on the Taliban while continuing to train Afghan army and police to take over security duties by 2014.

    On a track parallel to the military operations, moves toward a political settlement are underway.  President Obama says the U.S. will back any peace initiatives, but they have to be led by the Afghan government.

    "As we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban," said President Obama. "Our position on these talks is clear:  they must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al-Qaida, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution."

    But former Afghan ambassador to the United States Said Jawad says the Taliban will not deal unless the U.S. is involved.

    "My experience indicated that every time emissaries would go to Taliban or Taliban would send their guys to talk with the Afghan government, the first question they ask is, does America know about this reconciliation?  And if the answer is no, then Taliban are not interested," said Jawad. "They walk away. And the reason is that they know who they’re fighting with. So if there’s a reconciliation they want to do it with the party that’s mostly involved in it."

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Taliban outreach “not a pleasant business but a necessary one.”  But officials and outside analysts say the overtures are very preliminary. Ambassador Jawad describes them as “talks about talks” and warns against any premature expectations of results.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora