Obama’s Political strategy in Afghanistan, Iraq

When the Commanding General of the US forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus said last week during a television interview that the 2011 date set by president Obama to start the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan might not be attainable, everyone took notice of the General’s comments. Petraeus, of course, was speaking in confident terms about the counter insurgency strategy which requires a stable and strong Afghan government that has the confidence of its people and is able to deliver security and stability to the general public. Nine years after the US invaded and took over Afghanistan, this belated strategy requires much more time and more US troops commitment to train and prop up the Afghan national army. Petraeus Counter Insurgency strategy, in order to succeed, it must depend on establishing good and stable governance in Afghanistan. The government of President Hamid Karzai, however, is nothing more than a collection of corrupt warlords who in the final analysis might doom the US counter insurgency strategy and in the end enable the Taliban to regain power in Afghanistan.

Afghanization strategy

President Obama’s war strategy since he became president and according to his promises during his election campaign has been based on withdrawing the US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama intends to implement an Afghanization strategy concurrent with the counter insurgence strategy which appears to be odd and counter productive because an Afghanization strategy might undermine the Counter Insurgency strategy. An Afghanization strategy will eventually and gradually turn over Afghanistan to an Afghani government, is a direct descendant of former President Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization strategy. Nixon sought to withdraw the US troops from South Vietnam, gradually while the US trains the South Vietnamese army to fight the war against the North Vietnamese. Whether the South Vietnamese can win or lose, the strategy assumed, it did not matter. To Nixon, he sought to extract the US from Vietnam amid mounting public pressure against the war and in time for his reelection campaign in 1972.

Obama and Nixon

President Obama is in a similar situation to Nixon between 1969-1971.Petraeus might have sounded the first alarm ( or even opposition) for the events that will happen in 2011 when president Obama is set to implement his goal of starting withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in time for his own reelection campaign in 2012. Obama, similar to Nixon in 1968 who inherited a messy war from President Johnson, is eager to shed George Bush’s messy inheritance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Geopolitical approach

Furthermore, Obama is following a geopolitical strategy approach that will, in addition to Afghanistan; deal with Pakistan, Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Pakistan is a bigger problem for the US in the long term than Afghanistan, This is why the US is developing a strategic engagement plan with Pakistan in order to stem the funding of arms and men into Afghanistan and prevent the nuclear-power country from becoming a terrorist anarchy state.

Obama will also have to pressure or bargain with Iran over Afghanistan and the Arab Israeli conflict in ways favorable to US ( as well as Israeli) interests in the region. This geopolitical approach is crucial for Obama in order to stabilize Afghanistan and infuse the counter insurgency strategy there with means of success. Though there are signs that indicate that both the US-backed governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are heading toward variants of the South Vietnamese model. (South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam in 1975, two years after the US withdrew its forces from the country and 4 month after the US congress cut off its funding)

In Iraq, president Obama is implementing a continuation of Bush’s policy toward a scheduled withdrawing of US troops from Iraq as stipulated by the Status of Force agreement (SOFA) and regulating the future US-Iraqi relations through the Strategic Framework Agreement which will ensure that Iraq will remain in the US orbit After the conclusion of the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Iraqis, according to the US “Iraqization” strategy will have to figure out how to stabilize their country amid deep sectarian and ethnic divisions and balancing the interests of competing regional powers of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In Afghanistan, the situation is similar to Iraq and to South Vietnam prior to its fall. The government of President Hamid Karzai is corrupt and plagued by sever lack of leadership and an educated middle class that is necessary to form an effective governing system.

Domestic reasons

In implementing his strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama plans to run a low-risk 2012 presidential campaign that will be more about the domestic issues, of economy, health care, finance reform rather the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that brought him to power in the first place. Obama is set to win the 2012 election campaign based on his performance on domestic issues and legislative record for his democratic constituency. For the Republicans, they will have to overcome Obama’s success in implementing his domestic agendas, and his going through with the scheduled withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, even if both countries became failed or South Vietnamese states.

Ali Younes is a defense and policy analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: ali.younes@charter.net

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About AliYounes

Ali Younes is an award winning journalist and writer. He is a member of the Arab American Writers Group and an award winning journalist and media strategist.

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