News / USA

Afghan War Effort a Key Obama Foreign Policy Issue

A U.S. Marine and an Afghan soldier are seen on joint patrol in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan (file photo).A U.S. Marine and an Afghan soldier are seen on joint patrol in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan (file photo).
x
A U.S. Marine and an Afghan soldier are seen on joint patrol in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan (file photo).
A U.S. Marine and an Afghan soldier are seen on joint patrol in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan (file photo).
One of the major foreign policy issues facing President Barack Obama during his second term in office will be winding down the conflict in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.   
 
American military forces have been in that country for more than 11 years, longer than the Soviet presence in the 1980s [more than nine years].
 
There are roughly 68,000 U.S. troops in the country.  The plan is to withdraw all American and international coalition combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, ultimately handing over all military and security responsibilities to the Afghans.
 
But former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2005-2006), John Bolton, believes the Afghan security forces will not be ready to take over from the Americans, and he is pessimistic about Afghanistan’s future following the U.S. pullout.
 
“The possibility of the U.S. actually pulling out in 2014 just brings the prospect of the Taliban taking control once again more into focus.  And I think if I were predicting, I would predict that’s the most likely outcome, which is obviously an extraordinarily negative outcome from the U.S. perspective,” said Bolton.  “The idea that we would withdraw, even though the near certain outcome is a Taliban/al-Qaida return to power and all the risks that that entails for the United States and other countries, I just think is a kind of blindness.”
 
Talks on U.S. Troop Strength After 2014
 
U.S. and Afghan officials are engaged in negotiations over the size of the American military presence after 2014, a presence that is expected to be significantly smaller.
Former Defense Secretary (1997-2001) William Cohen said there must be an international residual military force in Afghanistan.
 
“It cannot be simply the United States.  There has to be a recognition on the part of many countries that it’s in the world’s interest to see stability remain or be brought to Afghanistan,” Cohen said. “If we leave and everyone leaves, then I think we have a return to the status quo ante.  That’s not desirable.  But the United States can’t be the only country concerned about stability in Afghanistan, so it is going to have to be an international force, if there is going to be one at all.”
 
For many years, one of the key demands of the United States and other Western countries was for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption.  But many former U.S. government officials, including Ambassador John Bolton, said the goal of rooting out graft was a lofty one that Karzai was unable to accomplish. 
 
Corruption Still Rampant
 
“Although we’d certainly like an Afghanistan without corruption, the odds of the United States making that happen or of the Karzai regime or anybody else making it happen in a short period of time was always unrealistic,” said Bolton.  “It is a fact of life there that the Afghans themselves are going to have to decide how to deal with.  It might have been part of the unrealistic expectations that we had for the Afghan national government.”
 
Former National Security Adviser [1974-77; 1989-93], retired Air Force General Brent Scowcroft also said the United States had unrealistic expectations about what it could achieve in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
“We cannot step in on a brief timetable and remake societies.  We’ve tried it several times now and it’s just beyond our capability.  So we have to realize, when we are contemplating action in another country, what is realistic for us to accomplish and what isn’t,” Scowcroft said.  “Because both in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had these grand notions of remaking the societies and turning them into democracies, well you just can’t do that overnight.  And it takes an intensity and a dedication which we can’t perpetuate, and so we need to reign in our aspirations.” 
 
War Weariness in U.S. and Europe 
 
General Scowcroft added there is a war weariness in the United States.
 
“With the Afghan war, with the Iraq hostilities, I think there is a strong sense ‘don’t get involved anymore, pull back.’  Psychologically, that can be harmful," he said. "I don’t know what there is out in the future, but going from one extreme to another is dangerous.”
 
Experts said there is also a war weariness in Europe, and they said this does not bode well for putting together a smaller international military force to replace the one currently in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. 

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid