Barack Obama delivers a speech of a Flawed Plan



Composed by A Khokar     5 Dec 2009

The US President has given us a strong military plan, but where was the political strategy — and usual confidence which symbolizes a US President; says right minded Paddy Ashdown-Bosnia fame International Community’s High representative.

The Taliban’s favourite phrase in recent months has been: “The elephant is down, now all we have to do is— slay it.”

The best thing about this week’s Obama speech was that Taliban they now know the elephant is not down; it is engaging the fight with renewed strength, determination and vigour. The Taliban may be under pressure but is this enough for success in the war of Afghanistan; however limited the success may be? The answer is no.

The Obama speech gave us, in short, a military plan — but not yet a political one.

When General Stanley McChrystal sent his proposal to the President, it included a carefully integrated plan for both the military (broadly, an extra 30,000 troops and a focus on protecting the people, not chasing the enemy) and the political aspect. The speech contained the first but was almost silent on the second. Perhaps this is still to come. But if it is not, then what we have heard so far will not be enough.

What the President intended was for audiences in the US and Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan to hear different things. His message to the domestic audience was supposed to be “troops home in 18 months” and to the Taliban, “30,000 extra troops”. But unfortunately the wrong people got the wrong message. What the US heard was “30,000 more troops” while what the Taliban heard was “in 18 months, they’ll be gone”.

The Taliban commander Mullah Omar once famously said: “They may have the watches, but we have the time.” I fear we may have inadvertently given volume to that message. I understand the temptation of timelines and exit strategies for those who have to win back home a domestic support. But Obama has told the Taliban that how long they have to wait before US forces give up.

It is far better to deal with these things through milestones rather than timelines. For instance US could set milestones for the growth and professionalization of the Afghan Army and police, set target times for them to be delivered and, as they are, hand over the functions to Afghan structures and pull out.

A mission implementation plan for Afghanistan, capable of being debated back home and providing a visible road map of progress for Afghans as well, is a better way to gain public support than the artificial deadlines that, in the case of July 2011, looks as almost undeliverable.

It is not difficult to see why the President felt that he needed, for domestic purposes, to say that withdrawal would start in July 2011. But this does not make it right.


Other elements of the strategy were also either missing or too lightly glossed over.

First and foremost, there was nothing about the absolute necessity to ensure that, at last and after six damaging years of muddle, the tower of Babel that is the international community in Afghanistan will now work to a single plan, act on a single set of priorities and speak with a single voice. It is the absence of this, more than anything else that has caused the failures and cost so many lives. The only person whose authority is powerful enough to bash international heads together and make this happen is the US President. Yet there was nothing of this in his speech.

Second, what political element there was in the President’s speech seemed to rely still on the belief that President Karzai is reform able and will reform. Some might think this a triumph of hope over experience. Of course Afghanistan’s newly elected President cannot be changed that there is no option—– but to support him. But that does not mean that all the eggs be piled up into this rather rickety basket.

One of the impediments to success in Afghanistan is that US have been trying to force a Western-style centralized constitution on to a country whose traditions have been tribal and local for 1,000 years. This is a golden opportunity to begin to shift the weight of effort away from strengthening Kabul, to building up governance from the bottom. This would at once give a political strategy that runs with, rather than against, the grain of Afghan society, while creating the best context for a serious programme of reconciliation with the tribally based Taliban.

Taliban reconciliation was mentioned in the President’s speech — but only with a single, almost off-hand, remark. Yet this was a main plank of the McChrystal strategy which needs to be made clear here. Taliban reconciliation is not an easy option to hard fighting. It may always be possible to split the oddly low-level Taliban commander away with a bag of gold or the promise of a job. But serious negotiation with a Taliban prepared to put aside the gun in favour of pursuing constitutional means will never come while they think — with justification — that they are winning on the battlefield.

Every body hoped to see, in the long awaited Obama‘s speech a clear statement of a wider regional strategy that would include not just Pakistan but also Iran, India, and maybe even Russia and China. Without this the success will certainly be much more difficult.

On the other hand, on the arrival of US troops in Afghanistan, other than about 10000 that they will be deployed in Helmed which has become a secured strong hold of US forces likr Green Zone in Baghdad-Iraq; about 5000 of them will be sent to the adjacent province of Kandahar to be deployed along Pakistan border which means that Pakistan will feel all the heat on this new war escalation on this front.


There has been lot of anarchy and devastation that US with its subversive activities through its agents Tehrik e Taliban in Pakistan; since it is raised and supported by US that these stooges have brought so much of devastation in Pakistan in the Khyber Pass enclave in the north. They are very much threatening the very heartland and capital of Islamabad. The new escalation of US forces deployment in south along second major Pakistan’s Bolan Pass on Hindu Kush ranges may leave the south western enclave of Baluchistan most vulnerable for exploitations, where the situation is already tense and life is seen in peril at the hands of separatist.

President Obama has formidable gifts of oratory and he deploys them very confidently but the old Obama so famously comfortable in his own skin; seemed distinctly uncomfortable while posing as a war escalating leader. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, too, looked especially miserable talking of conflict and seen simply seconding Obama’s new verdict in his recent communiqués and alleging Pakistan for harbouring Al Qaeda fugitives.

But one thing is evident that there is a devil trying to click the war map to enlarge open in New Window and trying his best to stay put in this area for a long time to come.

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