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Obama's Afghan plan: comprehensive and campaigning

Mark Urban | 21:51 UK time, Friday, 27 March 2009

The long awaited Obama blueprint form Afghanistan has appeared. It's certainly comprehensive - acknowledging the importance of 'non-kinetic' efforts such as aid, reconciliation talks with 'reconcilable' Taleban, and training Afghan troops. It also gives a regional focus to the effort, with much emphasis on Pakistan, and plans for the formation of a diplomatic Contact Group to involve important neigbours including Iran, India or the Central Asian republics in find a solution to the problem.

It begs though some questions both about the degree to which he wants US and other Nato forces to fight the Taleban and about his whether President Obama's approach to political problems needs to be quite so partisan.

He defined his country's central aim as: "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you".

Under the rubric of defeating al-Qaeda you could justify largely withdrawing from rural Afghanistan, since you won't find many al-Qaeda types there. The logic for continuing the fight in places like Helmand, the President's advisers might argue, lies in his phrase about preventing militant Islamists from regaining power in Afghanistan. Even so, one could easily argue that such an objective does not necessarily justify largescale involvement of Nato troops in Afghan counter insurgency operations. Elsewhere in the speech however the president said, "we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban's gains". This seems to imply a much larger involvement in counter-insurgency. We will wait to see how commanders on the ground resolve this dilemma.

The other curious aspect about this announcement was the sense in which it still sounded a bit like a campaign speech rather than that of a Commander in Chief. The centrality of al-Qaeda and 9/11 in the early part of his argument sounded like an attempt to convince his Democratic base that the struggle is still worth it. The emphasis on turning over more of the fight to Afghan forces has already led some to dub this announcement an 'exit strategy'.

The president also appeared to blame the Bush administration a couple of times for neglecting Afghanistan in favour of Iraq. Today he announcemed that 4,000 troops would be sent to train bigger Afghan security forces but that "those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq". This sounded like a criticism of President Bush for taking his eye off the ball, yet it is hard to believe that the US armed services could not have provided a training mission of that size if local commanders had asked for it, say one year ago.


  • Comment number 1.


    Kirsty's diction finally defeated a participant tonight (while perplexing my poor brain to the usual, marked degree). English not being the first language of the Afghan ambassador, his cerebral translation circuits blew, and he was left slumped in defeat.
    How edgy was that!

  • Comment number 2.

    I had hoped that with the Obama ere beginning, it would mean the world would return to peace.

    However since the announcements that Obama is sending 17,000 troops plus 4,000 military training advisers, France joining Nato and its command structure (sarkozy has announced france would begin full combat operations soon), britain sending 2000-3000 extra heart and hope is sinking fast.

    Pakistan is destabilising fast and Israel wants to trick the US into war against Iran by launching a strike against iran's nuclear factories.

    combined with the economic depression causing massive civil unrest across Europe, the met police comments by Hartshorn of a summer of rage is now spreading to strasbourg now. stop...italy

  • Comment number 3.

    Al Qaeda cannot be defeated militarily. The way to defeat al Qaeda is to take away the cause - and that is in Israel/Palestine. Unfortunately, there will be many embittered souls, created from the crazy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, still bent on revenge, thanks to Bush and Blair. We'll just have to deal with them as best we can until they've burnt themselves out.

  • Comment number 4.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Must we really subsidise pornography for Jacqui Smith's husband?

    To this comment...

    How long before they report this on the BBC?March 29, 2009

    ...I felt moved to reply:

    Days 1-2: Don't know about it. Too trivial to register.
    Days 3-4: OK, it did. But not newsworthy. Meanwhile, Kate Silverton has bought a new frock. We go to Milan with her to see her try it on. Next up, climate change is caused by plebs using Ryan Air.
    Day 5. Small mention on the CBBC website page. See... we did mention it!
    Day 6. Mark Mardell & Nick Robinson and Newsnight do get round to a mention, but mainly supporting the notion that a government Minister's hubby using taxpayer's money to donwload porn is in fact a right wing plot and all on the blogosphere are paid members of Tory machine. Interview Derek Draper, Jasmin AB and Polly T to get some balanced opinion on the matter.
    Day 7 - Gordon Brown says it is 'not acceptable', 'will be looked at', he 'understands how we feel', but she 'has his full support'.
    Day 8 - BBC runs feature on political disengagement by the public.
    Day 9 - Entire MSM gets diverted as Prince Harry and Madonna rescue child from orphanage in Malawi and elope.
    Day 200 - Turns out the couple were blackmailed by MI5 and assisted by the SAS on the orders of 'someone in No 10' during the last hours of the bunker.
    Day 500 - Political editors of Guardian, BBC and Independent ask what all the fuss is about as this internet thing is just a flash in the pan... from Hawaii, where President for Life Obama has established a Useful Idiot compound to write and mail to Islington, Westminster and certain West London addresses all the news that's still fit to print on dead trees.
    Day 499 - BBC run the story, forgetting the time change, and dismiss claims they are just a PR machine for certain agendas masquerading as fact and objectivity. Explain that their ratings and executive bonuses depend on 'enhancing the narrative' and 'interpreting events' as the UK audience need to be helped to thinking about things in 'the right... er... correct... way'.
    Day 501 - PM Cameron does sod all as, um, it's kind of useful having a PR machine that is funded by the Govt. and EU and will dance to any tune required, when required
    Day 502 - I, and a few others eventually get the nerve to cancel our DDs. The full force of the law is duly applied.
    Day 600 - Rapists and murderers are released early from jails to make way.... the BBC is unique. Unique I tell you!!!!!!

    Sorry, it's early (despite the time change) and the world really has gone mad!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Mods. I salute you! I know it is ‘off topic’, but the point kind of is what does get chosen to ‘be topic’ these days. And as a bit of Catch 22 from a free press it’s often hard to fathom… or justify.

    Let the flames begin!

  • Comment number 6.

    The "campaign speech" is to prepare us for the land onslaught into the tribal areas of Pakistan.

    If (a big if) that were successful, there would still be many nodes all over the World.

    The predictable outrage would produce and activate many more nodes and suicide bombers.

    In frentically chasing the daily news, could our pundits sometimes think of longer-term consequences?

  • Comment number 7.

    The world indeed is a less safer place than it was yesterday but if we give 'em all porno movies (MP's} it will keep them off the streets or out of the house, just say it's like Thatcher's answer to uinemployment - cheap heroin

  • Comment number 8.

    Once again the world's stock markets have imploded just because the stock market parasites are not likely to get exactly what they ordered from the G20. It would appear that the only policy significantly agreed upon is for new tougher international financial regulation. Therefore far less chance of the hedge funds climbing out of their black hole with constructive ( false ) accounting. It was reported on BBC News channel earlier that perhaps Barclays share price would not have been hit so hard if they had released the news that they would not be participating in the UK governments ( toxic ) asset insurance scheme. Perhaps this demonstrates that they have not got enough reserves to be able to afford the premium ?

    It would appear that offshore tax havens are becoming an endangered species, so perhaps in future there will be less opportunity for fraudulent asset trading. Unfortunately it would appear that we will have to rely on the integrity of the Corporate Nazi stock market parasite criminals who got us here in the first place to act as future regulators.

  • Comment number 9.

    The opium trade accounts for 40% of the Afghan economy, and it is the funding base for the Taleban. It is an important factor in corruption in Afghanistan. The NATO presence has had no significant effect in reducing it - they cannot burn the crop and hope to win hearts and minds.

    Meanwhile, 6 million people die an agonising death from cancer in developing countries without the relief of medical morphine and heroin.

    Therefore NATO, the UN and WHO should help the Afghan Government to buy the opium, and medicalise it. They would then gain control of the farming areas and rural economy, and NATO could withdraw.

  • Comment number 10.

    Is there a problem with the post link above?

    Just askin'

  • Comment number 11.

    I gather from others, in subsequent posts, that there was. Must have missed the reply.

  • Comment number 12.


    Sovereign or Vassal State

    On August (20th) 2009, the United Kingdom will be voting on its national referendum, is the United Kingdom, having been given the status of Special Relationship with the American Empire, now the (52nd) State of the American Empire. If the United Kingdom is now a state of the American Empire, where is it in the pecking order within the American Empire? How many troops and how many Pounds Sterling is the (52nd) State to provide to the (Af-Pac) War on Islam, and how long of a commitment is required. What will be the function and purpose of the (52nd) State within the American Empire? Does the (UK) align itself with the American Empire knowing that it supports the (IRA) Irish Republican Army, if not officially, it has public and financial support from its citizens?

    This is the (21st) Century and on August (20th) the United Kingdom will be casting its vote as to its place in the New Era, and the question has to be asked as to were that place going to be, a sovereign state or a vassal state of the American Empire.

    Operation (UK) Temporary Uplift

    UNITED KINGDOM: The (“TEMPORARY UPLIFT”) of between (500-700) five to seven hundred increasing Britain’s military strength there to about (9K) Nine-Thousand, for a four month period until British elections to be held on August 20 , with a planned withdrawal of all British Forces upon completion of the elections.

    But, the “Imperial Media Messiah” by way of Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, the largest contingent of that force will be ... from Britain." (900) Nine-hundred troops will come from the (UK).

    The long-term plan of adding (2K) Two-Thousand, British troops to the (Af-Pak) Conflict bring British troop levels to (10K), Ten-thousand, has NO! Political chance or support.

    (500-700) or (900) or (2K) Two-Thousand, which number is correct?

    (UK/Af-Pak) Exit Strategy

    Were does the (UK) see itself in a decade, in two decades, bogged down in a quagmire, in the (Af-Pak) War on Islam? What is the exit strategy of the American Empire, does it have a exit strategy, is the (UK) bound to that exit strategy, what is the mission of (UK) troops in the (Af-Pak) War plan, was it just handed to the Vassal State by the American Empire, without consultation, how many years, how many Pounds Sterling, what if a (UK) situation comes up such as the Falklands, or another Island has a volcanic eruption were (UK) citizens have to be relocated. What are the Vassal States obligations? On August (20th) isn’t it time to asks were is the (UK) at now, and were does it see itself in the next decade, next century, were does it fit or were does it plan to be within the (21st) Century, as a Vassal State or a Sovereign State?

  • Comment number 13.

    It is good that a BBC pundit would address this problem. Herewith some grist for his mill:

    Afghanistan and Pakistan are now a single problem. There are two contending ideas of a solution: that suggested by the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan and that implied by Hillary Clinton.

    Strangely enough, that suggested by the Saudi Ambassador is less fundamentalist than that implied by Hillary Clinton. It would be good for the thinking pundits within the BBC to have a go at this!


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