Obama’s Administration finally came up with a plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the form of speech by the President, and in the form of a white paper. Surprisingly, the two do not overlap, as some commentators have rightly pointed. This mismatch can be attributed to the ambivalent position of the President to the issue. As New York Times informed over the weekend, the President’s announcement came after a significant disagreement between the Vice-President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton on the scope and goals of US involvement in the region. The president promised 4,000 additional troops to be deployed on the ground as trainers, and in his speech focused exclusively on al Qaeda, as the main goal for the operation. There was no mentioning of nation-building, regional stability, or reform. This was, in effect, the Vice President’s minimalist approach, tacitly approved by the Defense Secretary Gates, and perhaps the first defeat in what appears to be a repetition of triangular power-struggle for influence over the President by the Office of the Vice President, the State Department, and the Department of Defense.
US abandoned nation-building processes in Afghanistan twice in the past twenty years. The result was first the coming of the Taliban, then the establishment of al Qaeda there and subsequently 9/11, and now the failure of Pakistan and the creeping Talibanization of its North-West Frontier Provices and FATA. So, the real question is what this strategy will do to stabilize the region, if at all, and how. The starting point for this analysis must be an assessment of the preceding and current conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and (more…)