News / USA

Afghanistan Remains Key Foreign Policy Issue for Obama

President Obama discusses the yearly report on progress in Afghanistan. He was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, left, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine General James Cartwright
President Obama discusses the yearly report on progress in Afghanistan. He was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, left, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine General James Cartwright

One of the central foreign policy questions facing the Obama administration is the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration's latest strategy review on Afghanistan indicates U.S. forces can begin a scheduled drawdown next July.  The aim is to hand over combat operations to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014 - if the situation permits it.

In presenting the strategy review, President Barack Obama recently said to ensure Afghans take responsibility, the United States is continuing to focus on training.

"Targets for the growth of Afghan security forces are being met.  And because of the contributions of additional trainers from our coalition partners, I am confident we will continue to meet our goals," said Obama.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, George Bush's Middle East envoy from 2001-2003, expresses his views during an interview in New York (File Photo)
Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, George Bush's Middle East envoy from 2001-2003, expresses his views during an interview in New York (File Photo)

But retired U.S. Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni says the training situation in Afghanistan is mixed.

"The military training is probably going well from what I can see and understand, well enough - it is still a long way to go.  The police training is concerning," said Zinni.  "I think there has to be a lot more investment in that.  There needs to be a lot more follow-up.  There are problems, I think, in the ranks in terms of not only quality and performance to ensure the lack of corruption, but their ability to relate to the people - and that has probably not gone as well."

Zinni and others say a key problem in Afghanistan is rampant corruption, and it will not be easy to root out.

"It takes a long time because it is so endemic to almost every level of the leadership and governance," he said.  "You have to start not only at the top, but also work it all the way down to the bottom.  It is not going to happen overnight.  If it is so well ensconced in the entire system, it is going to take a lot of time, a committed leadership and most importantly - we have to constantly ensure that we have eyes on what goes on and we call out the corruption when we see it and, most importantly, make it public."

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served in 1992 in the George H.W. Bush administration, agrees fighting corruption in Afghanistan is a very difficult proposition.

"There is no guarantee we can do it.  We have dealt with situations like this to some degree in the past in other countries," said Eagleburger. "But this is a Herculean task and I can not assure you that it will not be easily overcome, there is no question about that.  We have to hope that by staying until 2014 we will be able to have enough time to root it out - but I certainly can not guarantee it."

Eagleburger also questions whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai is able to fight corruption, whether he is capable of running the country, and whether he is a reliable partner for the United States.

Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (File Photo)
Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (File Photo)

"I have my doubts.  But at the moment he is all that is available, I gather, so we have to go with what we have got," said Eagleburger.  "I would have to hope that I am wrong and he is better than I think he is.  But at the moment I have to answer your question honestly and I do not think he is up to it."

Eagleburger was asked if the United States is investing too much money and lives in Afghanistan.

"I wish I could answer that with a straight answer," he said.  "If we were now for the first time making up our minds as to whether we should be involved in Afghanistan or not, I would be amongst those who would say we should not do it, that we should stay out.  But now that we have made a decision and are in, I guess my answer to you would be we have very little choice now but to stay until we can achieve the success we hope for."

For retired General Anthony Zinni, success would include having a reasonable Afghan government with security forces capable of fighting extremists like the Taliban.

"[Also] the ability to keep out organizations like al-Qaida from getting a sanctuary in there and a government system that is reasonably responsive to the needs of their people," he said.  "I think that is the best we should hope for.  I do not think we should have any delusions about creating Jeffersonian democracy, free-market economies and that sort of thing."

While focusing on Afghanistan, Zinni said any resolution of the Afghan conflict must include Pakistan.

In his presentation of the new Afghan/Pakistan strategy, President Obama said the Pakistani government recognizes that terrorist networks in its border regions are a threat to all our countries, especially Pakistan.  He said progress has not come fast enough, "So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with"

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid