Recounting a brief history of events since then, Obama reiterates a theme that he has used repeatedly of blaming our current situation on his predecessor. In this case, he does so with much more subtlety. While that may have some truth to it, he understates the lack of legitimacy of the Kharzai government. He does not mention that this government at best only controls parts of the capital city of Kabul.
While admitting that the recent elections in Afghanistan were "marred by fraud", he says that the government is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and constitution. The critical thinker may question the legitimacy of these laws and constitution. Are they for real or are they a device for fooling ourselves into believing that we can remake this remote, tribal nation in our own image? Do they have any meaning to the average Afghan?
Obama asserts that Al-Qaida retains safe havens along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. To the extent that these safe havens really exist, are they present in Afghanistan at all? To the extent that they exist at all, isn't the important point that they are located in areas that are not readily accessible to military forces, be they American, Pakistani, other NATO, or Afghani? Will a surge of our military into Afghanistan destroy safe havens not in Afghanistan?
Another aspect of Obama's presentation that seems dubious is the notion of Afghan security forces. Are these for real? Absent an actual central government, to whom are these supposed security forces responsible? The people of Afghanistan defeated the Soviet Union. Why then do they need our training? Obama asserts that "it will be clear to the Afghan government - and more importantly, to the Afghan people they will ultimately be responsible for their own country." I propose that the people of Afghanistan were running their own country long before the great powers violated their borders. He further asserts that previously, Afghanistan was terrorized by the al-Qaida forces within its borders. Was it al-Qaida or the Taliban who were terrorizing the people of Afghanistan? Moreover, will the people of Afghanistan accept the notion that alien forces from a faraway land combined with the armed forces of a terribly corrupt government will protect them from the Taliban? This looks an awful lot like Vietnam, even though Obama tells us that this is different. The differences he cites are more illusory than real. There were forces from other nations such as South Korea and Australia involved in Vietnam, to no avail. While our enemies in Afghanistan may not be exactly the same as the enemy in Vietnam, the similarity of a people set upon by a foreign army with awesome firepower but no organic connection to the people whose land they are occupying outweighs the differences.
President Obama rightly understands that al-Qaida must be denied fertile ground from which to base its operations. He specifically mentions Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Our presence in Afghanistan, however, may actually legitimize al-Qaida in the eyes of millions of Muslims as a force fighting the infidels invading the Muslim world. He says that the Pakistani people have turned against the outside extremists who have infiltrated their country and that the Pakistani army is now waging offensives against the Taliban within their borders. To the extent that this is true, they are doing so without the help of American forces.