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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/17/09

Obama's War On Terror: Proceed With Caution

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The Obama administration is facing military uncertainty regarding the war on terror. President Obama inherited a hefty load of problems that are arguably unsolvable. He may not be able to live up to his campaign promises of ending the war in Iraq and shifting military focus to Afghanistan.

During the campaign the ideas sounded wonderful in theory. I supported Mr. Obama and still do. However, he's got a lot of work to do.

Lets start with Iraq. The Iraqi people just had another democratic election. But was it successful? Don't form your opinion from me -- the eternal pessimist.

Look at the facts. The Washington Post reported that election fraud was committed in every Iraqi province. But not serious enough to change the final results. Kareem al-Tamimi, an official on Iraq's election commission stated:

"We have received complaints over violations in all 14 provinces, with varying degrees of seriousness, but most of them were not critical and did not change the final results. Some of the provinces had more than others."

Well then, I'll just take al-Tamimi's word for it. However, the Sunnis and the Shias probably wont. This is likely to cause more civil strife down the road. After all, the Sunnis and the Shias are not Democrats and Republicans.

Violence in Iraq is down. However the key word is "down" not over. U.S. FOBS still receive regular rocket attacks. Sunni suicide bombers are killing Shias on religious pilgrimages -- and vice versa. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians are still dying. The current death count for U.S. troops is at 4,245. We'll probably never have an accurate number of Iraqi civilian deaths because the numbers are so substantial.

Our troops were supposed to move out of Iraqi cities by June 30 as established in the U.S./Iraqi status of forces agreement. However, General Odierno's assessment of Iraqi police and security forces is dismal. They're not ready to take over combat operations.

Secretary Gates (a straight shooter) has stated that the President's plan to withdraw all troops within 16 months is just one option on the table. It's not the end-all-be-all. President Obama is now considering a 23 month withdrawal of U.S. troops -- 7 months past his promised deadline. What happens if in 23 months the Iraqis are still not up to the task? Will there be another extension? That will leave President Obama between a rock and hard place.

In the meantime Afghanistan is calling. With Bin Laden at large and believed to be in Pakistan the mission has yet to be defined. The newest U.S. troops who've arrived in Afghanistan kicking off President Obama's 30,000 troop surge have already seen action. Unfortunately, not against those who attacked us on 9/11. Instead they're clashing with peasants.

Colonel David B. Haight, commander of the 3rd Brigade 10th Mountain Division reported from the field:

"Afghan officials don't believe it's hardcore al-Qaida operatives that you're never going to convert anyway. They believe that it's the guys who say, 'Hey you want $100 to shoot an RPG at a Humvee when it goes by,' and the guy says, 'Yeah I'll do that, because I've got to feed my family."

Well that's just great. Are we going to pump tens of thousands of U.S. troops into a country that is historically known to be unconquerable to fight impoverished Afghans who will kill for money?

Boris Gromov, The last Russian General to command troops in Afghanistan said:

Afghanistan taught us an invaluable lesson ... It has been and always will be impossible to solve political problems using force. One can increase the forces or not -- it won't lead to anything but a negative result.

While our troops come under fire in pursuit of members of Al-Qaida our allies in Pakistan have brokered a truce with the Taliban who've aided and harbored Bin Laden and Al-Qaida.

How do we fight those who actually attacked us on 9/11 when they're given sanctuary by an ally of the United States?

Mr. Obama is not in an envious position. But hey, he spent millions to get where he is --he's got to take the heat.  If you think I'm being critical of the President please hold your horses because I'm not ready to saddle up. I'm just highlighting the dilemma he's facing.

In Vietnam LBJ's war became Nixon's war. The President should proceed with a lot of caution. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it.

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John Bruhns is an Iraq war veteran. He writes on politics and Mideast conflict.
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