Thursday, June 23, 2011

Afghan U.S. Troop Withdrawal Post Haste?...President Obama's Plan

Video: Live Univision PR News Interview June 22, 2011 in Anticipation of President Obama's Annnouncement (Entrevista en vivo en Univision PR discute la guerra en Afghanistán previo al anuncio del Presidente Obama)
Check out the Interview / Busca la Entrevista:

In his address to the nation June 22, 2011, President Barack Obama called on the people of the United States to reclaim the American dream and end the war in Afghanistan "responsibly".  Americans are tired of ten years of war in far away lands.  The national focus has shifted from homeland security to rebuilding the economy, creating jobs and delivering results in other pressing domestic challenges such as widespread mortgage loan defaults and declining home prices, joblessness, immigration, improving education and enhancing business competitivity, health care costs and a soaring federal deficit.  After close to $150 billion in costs and a decade of war in Afghanistan, Obama announced that he will focus on "nation-building" here at home.  As clear a shift in policy as can be.  Or is it? 

President Obama inherited a "war of choice" (Irak) and a "war of necessity" (Afghanistan).  These wars have cost over 6,000 American lives, thousands of injured soldiers and in excess of $1.3 trillion (financed through new debt, not with any tax raises).  Intelligence reports that there remain 50-100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, which, at current levels, translates to 1,000-2,000 U.S. soldiers per terrorist or $5-$10 million monthly expenditures per al Qaeda operative.  Quite a steep price to pay particularly in a tight economy.  And bipartisan calls for a drastic change in course resonate from Washington to all major U.S. cities.  Even the association of mayors of American cities, assembled in Baltimore, issued a resolution asking the President to end the wars (the first time since the Vietnam War the mayors take a formal position on U.S. foreign policy).  "The tide of war is receding", stated Obama.  Indeed.  How long?

The President's plan is simple: "redeploy" (withdraw) ten thousand troops by December 2011 and another 23,000 by the summer of 2012 thus recovering the 33,000 surge troops deployed in 2010 and end all combat operations by December 2014, when the Afghan government should be fully "responsible for its country's security".  Meanwhile, ensure that the region does not revert to a safehaven for terrorists; enhance collaboration with Pakistan to "root out extremists" and maintain "an enduring partnership with a sovereign Afghan government"; remain vigilant at home and frustrate terrorist plots against the homeland.  Not everyone is happy with the President's plan; leading Democrats (and Republicans) will continue to call for bigger troop reductions at a faster pace, mindful of public opinion polls that show 80% of Americans put the economy at the top of the agenda and want an end to these wars.

Obama's policy reflects the difficult balances Presidents must strike to protect battlefield gains, attain cost reductions, free federal budgets for pressing needs, satisfy supporters and muzzle critics and, it must be said, steady the Administration as it enters a tough reelection year.  Make no mistake, the President will continue to monitor his policy with his generals and civilian advisers and will make adjustments as conditions require it.  But his decisions will also seek to revitalize his electoral base, regain his lead with voters at the margins and show to independents that his view is the best for the country.  

"Engagement with the world", "passion," "pragmatism," "strategic" approaches and "resolve" were the themes President Obama highlighted as he closed his speech to the nation. This Administration will not (cannot) exit the world stage.  Friends and allies may expect American collaboration on global issues but a larger participation in footing the bill.

The tide of war is receding.  Expect an overwhelming domestic policy offensive at home. 

Obama's strategy for the tough reelection battles that loom: full speed ahead.

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