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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Juan Cole on Obama's Afghan visit and policies



At his blog Juan Cole has a long entry on Obama's visit to Afghanistan and his policy in Afghanistan. As Cole remarks Obama had to enter secretly at night because of the security situation in Kabul. Almost as soon as he left there was a suicide attack.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement Cole claims is an executive order rather than a treaty. The agreement went neither to the U.S. congress nor to the Afghan parliament. Many press reports simply ignore this. The Afghan people have nothing to say through their parliament about the agreement. The American people have nothing to say through congrees about the billions of taxpayer dollars they commit to Afghanistan's defense after 2014. No doubt the agreement would pass with bipartisan support in the U.S. congress in spite of the U.S. debt and public distaste for the war but in the Afghan congress it might be different.

Cole points out that the document says that Afghanistan is committed to advancing democracy. However, the presidential election in Afghanistan and other elections were flawed. Also, this agreement itself is not treated democratically but as an executive order.

While the document promises that the U.S. will have no permanent bases in Afghanistan as Cole notes U.S. troops will be staying for at least another decade and even more under the agreement so the issue can be postponed for a decade or more while U.S. has access to Afghan bases as well. Special forces will remain to fight the Taliban. Most significantly there is a commitment to pay billions to keep the Afghan armed forces afloat..The U.S. is no doubt anxious to get NATO members to share this burden but this may be an uphill battle.

Cole concentrates on four failed aspects of Obama's Afghan strategy: 1) Trying to get someone more appropriate as president than Hamid Karzai. It has not worked. The U.S. is stuck with him so far. 2) Carrying out a counter-insurgency struggle to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and defeat the Taliban. While there may have been some local successes overall the struggle has been far from successful. 3) Training and equipping an Afghan National Army and police. This aim too is far from a success. Only one unit of the Army has been assessed as being able to operate independently. Of course it is also infiltrated by the Taliban at times. 4) Use drone strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Cole says this tactic has produced tremendous blowback and is probably counter productive. For the much more see the full article.

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