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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/14/09

Emerging Outlines of Obama's Afghanistan Plan

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Ron Fullwood
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OVER the next few weeks, the Obama administration will be rolling out their mission plan for continuing military support of the NATO occupation in Afghanistan. A lot of the elements of that plan will be familiar and obvious to folks who've been following the president's statements surrounding his decision to escalate the U.S. force there by as many as 17,000 troops.

The increase of force by Pres. Obama is primarily a stop-gap measure to bolster the defense of the Afghan regime in anticipation of summer violence surrounding the upcoming Afghan elections. There's also an offensive mission for the incoming troops which involves reinforcing the scarce patrols in the south at the Af/Pak border which are tasked with holding back the militarized resistance they routed into Pakistan from returning into Afghanistan.

"The increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction, and resources it urgently requires," Mr. Obama said in announcing the deployment.

The elements of the new mission plan for the Afghanistan occupation will reportedly highlight the increase in foreign aid in the U.S. budget which envisions a tripling of funds to Pakistan to help their military battle back what the Obama WH terms as 'extremists' in their country providing Pakistan-based drones and funding and logistical support for their military. Billions of dollars more are to be provided for humanitarian aid and assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan to develop roads, electricity, schools and agriculture projects.

As a major part of the comprehensive approach to Afghanistan reported, the Obama administration envisions a heightened diplomatic effort (already underway) to convince NATO allies and other countries in the region to step up their military presence and support to eventually enable the U.S. to reduce their military footprint in the Muslim-dominated region. There is a parallel effort to recruit more civilians with expertise to direct the multitude of reconstruction and economic development projects planned.

In line with the interagency review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy ordered by Pres. Obama - which is due to report later this month in anticipation of the upcoming NATO summit in April - former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, national security adviser James Jones, and U.S. envoy to AF/Pak Richard Holbrooke are working to 'broaden' the administration's approach beyond the military aspects of the occupation.

One of the main objectives for their continuing military mission in Afghanistan cited by the Obama administration is to 'deny' al-Qaeda and their Taliban (and other) militarized supporters a 'safe haven' from which to launch or plan attacks. The nation-building defense of the Afghan regime - escalated, almost as an afterthought, by the Bush administration - is an integral part of their continuing military operation.

"The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qa'ida supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border," Pres. Obama said in announcing the increase of force.

"There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the al-Qaida and Taliban bases along the border," Obama said in January. "And there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Vice Pres. Biden, also in January, predicted an increase in American casualties in Afghanistan as a result of the increased deployment and offensive engagements against the resisting population. "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick," he said.

The importance and primacy of the diplomatic portion of the Obama administration's new mission plan, however, has been foreshadowed by comments from military and WH officials emphasizing the limits of military force in achieving their nation-building and stability goals in Afghanistan.

"I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means," Obama told the CBC in February.

That sentiment is an echo of the views of many of Pres. Obama's military leaders - notably, those of several ranking officials who have prosecuted the Afghanistan mission in one way or another in the previous administration. NATO's top general, and Pres. Obama's top intelligence adviser today, Gen. James Jones, argued in 2006 that 'success' in Afghanistan will not be won by the military alone. “The real challenge in Afghanistan for success is how well the reconstruction mission and the international aid mission is focused,” Jones said in an October 4 speech.

The past intention of the military mission in Afghanistan, Gen. Jones had said, was to "signal to the insurgents, the government of Afghanistan and the people of the region, as well as to the international community, that NATO forces would not back down from exercising robust and overwhelming combat power when necessary.”

“It’s important that we understand that the way ahead in Afghanistan is to link any successful operational mission with visible, tangible demonstration of aid and relief available to the local population . . . If military action is not followed up by visible, tangible, sizable and correctly focused reconstruction and development efforts, then we will be in Afghanistan for a much longer period of time than we need to be,” he said.

The 2008 National Defense Strategy approved by then (and now) SoD Robert Gates concludes that "success" in Afghanistan is "crucial to "winning the 'Long War' against violent extremist movements" but it alone "will not bring victory."

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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