Via ‘Text Of Obama’s Afghanistan Speech’

Full text here.

‘As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and most importantly, many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war.

Others will ask, why don’t we leave immediately? That answer is also clear: We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen’

Was our goal just to eradicate Al Qaeda and the plotters of 09/11…or also to prevent conditions that would again allow them safe haven?  How deep do we have to get, and how long do we have to be there to achieve our objectives? There doesn’t seem to be much that’s new here.

Especially during the Iraq invasion and before COIN got going we lost some gains in Afghanistan.  It’s unclear now advise and assist will secure its aims with Karzai in power, the endemic corruption, poverty, geographic isolation, decades of war, the Taliban still waiting, and the mullah-led, wild FATA region next door.  As an interested citizen, I still haven’t been convinced the timeline is necessary, though there is a case for it.

Even after a pullout, or a timeline at the moment, we are are still potentially engaged.  In fact, the same logic leaves us potentially engaged (through military, security and intelligence agencies at least) with broad swathes of the Muslim World that may also harbor Al-Qaeda and affiliates now or at some point in the future.  Political breakdown is but one potential cause.

Related On This Site: Form Foreign Affairs: ‘Stephen Biddle and Max Boot Discuss U.S. Afghanistan Policy’

Obama’s vision?  His Security Report here.
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From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Problem With Obama’s Decision To Leave Iraq’

Full post here.

‘The ostensible reason for America’s withdrawal is that the two sides could not agree on the legal terms for an ongoing U.S. military presence — specifically, whether American troops would be subject to local laws. Indeed, Obama was right to make immunity for U.S. troops a deal-breaker. Yet this impasse was probably surmountable.’

Possibly, but it would have been a lot of work, and Obama would have had to break his campaign promise.  He’s a politician, after all.  Iran looms large, however, and many, many problems remain.  Republicans haven’t been making a lot of good noise about foreign policy.

There’s this quoted statement from Obama’s speech on the White House Blog:

‘The United States is moving forward, from a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world. And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we’ll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits, and the opportunities that they have earned.’

I give Obama credit for sticking to his plan, though it may have brokered away some other positions of strength.  It’s been a long road and a difficult position to inherit. Politically, he clearly needs to appeal to any center he can, the troops, and of course, try to expand his base which seems to be anyone expecting the government to be an intermediary in most aspects of American life (though perhaps necessary in the case of the VA and benefits to soldiers).  One of his best bumps occurred after taking out Bin Laden.

On this view, America would need to leverage the support of the people of the Middle East toward some shared ideals of freedom against the Al Assads, Gadhafis, and Mubaraks as well as other assorted nationalist autocrats of the region.  As for the ideals, in Western circles they are often humanitarian, human rights based, Left democratic including the Anne Marie Slaughter vision…and for Obama perhaps some liberation theology thrown in…out with Churchill, in with MLK).

Of course, in the Middle-East this may all mean something quite different.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

Related On This Site: David Ignatius At Foreign Policy: ‘What Happens When the Arab Spring Turns to Summer?’

Related On This Site: Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘French Secularism Dies In the Middle East’From The New Yorker: ‘Obama And Israel’…The Hamas Charter is pretty scary:  Repost: A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?

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