News / USA

Obama Afghan Visit Squeezed Between Wikileaks Revelations and Policy Review

Nico Colombant

While U.S. President Barack Obama completed a surprise visit to Afghanistan, U.S. analysts are disappointed he did not get to meet with Afghan leaders to get a better grasp of the conflict against Taliban insurgents.  The short visit came between WikiLeaks revelations on Afghan-U.S. mistrust and a comprehensive review due this month on U.S. operations.  

It was just a little over a year ago Mr. Obama announced he would increase the number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to about 100,000, in an effort to eliminate safe havens for terrorists.

He told some of those new troops at the Bagram Air Force Base Friday he is confident they will succeed. "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum and that is what you are doing. You are going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future," he said.

But a planned trip to Kabul to meet President Hamid Karzai was cancelled because of stormy weather and difficult travel conditions. The cancellation disappointed security analyst Michael O'Hanlon from the Washington-based Brookings Institute. "I think what I would have suggested is that the president spend the night in Afghanistan. Bagram Air Force base is quite safe. I do not think there is any realistic concern about him spending the night there. And then if the weather is good in the morning, take a helicopter to Kabul to see President Karzai and then come home," he said.

The two leaders did speak over a secure telephone link.

The visit came shortly after the unauthorized release of diplomatic cables by the activist website WikiLeaks which appeared to further strain a difficult relationship.  One U.S. diplomatic document referred to Mr. Karzai as "a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building."

The trip, which was Mr. Obama's second to Afghanistan as president, also came right before a review assessing the troop surge in Afghanistan.

Analyst Teresita Schaffer with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies says she believes embarrassment caused by the WikiLeaks revelations was the main reason behind the trip. "I can only assume that this is related more to the WikiLeaks than the policy review and that he wanted to try and repair some of the damage at the level of relationships between various Americans and (Mr.) Karzai by showing up in person," she said.

O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institute says he does not believe the review will be that important at this juncture, since he says the full troop surge is only just beginning to have an impact. "There could be some modest policy changes that come out of it, but nothing fundamental about the strategy is likely to change. I think it is more important and more likely that we could see a major reassessment done in the middle of 2011 because by that point you would have expected to see major change," he said.

Mr. Obama has promised to start withdrawing troops in July, but he has said the speed of the drawdown would be based on conditions on the ground. Last month at a NATO summit in Portugal, the U.S. president said his goal was to end the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan only by the end of 2014.

In a report to the U.S. Congress in November, the Pentagon said violence was reaching higher and higher levels in Afghanistan, with only modest progress against what it described as a still strong and expanding Taliban insurgency.

Taliban insurgents as well as al-Qaida extremists also operate out of Pakistani tribal areas, which have been the target of U.S. drone attacks and Pakistani military operations.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More