United States President Barack Obama scored a convincing "A" in the tortuous test that he was put to on the structuring of a new Afghan strategy.
he grasped the essence of the problem
that the Afghan people are starting to view the Americans as
occupiers and it is time to consider an exit strategy.
to attribute centrality in his strategy to the government led by President Hamid Karzai
Obama's new strategy emphasizes the strengthening of Karzai's government as quickly as possible. It acknowledges that only Afghans themselves can solve their problem
Everything in the Hindu Kush has worked from time immemorial on the basis of trust and loyalty and kinships. All that claptrap about merit, etc falls by the wayside.
never once decried "warlordism"
assigns a major role for the so-called "warlords" for stabilizing Afghanistan
US$30 billion to $40 billion per year, already stood at $65 billion
However, the most profound part of the new Obama strategy is that it signals a conclusive farewell to the neo-conservative agenda for US foreign policy.
As Obama put it, the nation-building project in Afghanistan "sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests". He was brutally frank in admitting that America "can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars".
instead tried to "rebuild our strength here at home
On Tuesday, the president formally brought the curtain down on Pax Americana.
that America had forgotten to "appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy ... So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars."
jettisons the counter-insurgency strategy in favor of a forceful counter-terrorism strategy.
to degrade the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the shortest possible time within the coming 18 months or so
Obama didn't quite reveal his mind on a political settlement in Afghanistan
All the same
In carefully chosen words, he said, "We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens."
But, here again, the current approach to engage the Taliban via the good offices of the Saudi or Pakistani intelligence is extremely short-sighted and dangerous
the attempt should be to "liberate" the Taliban from the Pakistani clutches.
the success of any Afghan strategy crucially depends on the US's capacity to compel Pakistan from supporting militant groups.
India and Pakistan must be firmly dissuaded from turning Afghanistan into an arena of rivalry
the dynamics of the US-India strategic partnership will be keenly watched by Islamabad.
The Obama administration has done well to "demilitarize" the US-India strategic partnership
Without doubt, unless Pakistan's threat perceptions of a "hegemonistic" India are squarely addressed, Islamabad will continue to resort to asymmetrical warfare.
Will Obama's emphasis on an exit strategy have the unexpected result of encouraging Pakistan's military to estimate that all that is needed is to counsel the Taliban to lie low during the forthcoming buildup of US troops and simply wait until the troops go home?