Echoes of Bush Doctrine

The US troop surge for Afghanistan has come with a surprise: an exit schedule. It is expected to be implemented in July 2011 for a staggering 100,000 personnel, approximately 18 months down the line.



President Barack Obama has thus promised a dateline for the return of forces. In an effort to blunt the blow of deploying another 30,000 forces by May next year, Obama has tried to balance this difficult decision. It may impact US efforts as the Taleban is bound to evolve a counter-strategy considering the time frame. Evoking a powerful reminder of his predecessor, Obama has struck the same tone in justifying the war: “Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.” Since Taleban and Al Qaeda remain a direct threat to the United States, the commitment to eradicating the threat remains justified, according to Obama. The new doctrine entails ‘degrading’ the ability of the Taleban by weakening it from below. In other words, less committed insurgents are to be weaned away with financial and other inducements for reintegration. While the objective for dealing with the Taleban is now to render them ineffective and not defeat them, the goal for Al Qaeda remains the same — to ‘defeat, dismantle and destroy’.

The significant addition here is ‘in Afghanistan and Pakistan’. Since a 100,000-strong US force and 50,000-plus NATO force aim to do just that in Afghanistan, the question is, how will the US pursue this objective in Pakistan? This is especially important since US officials vociferously claim top Al Qaeda leadership’s presence in Pakistan. This does not portend well for Pakistan that is already battling insurgents in the Waziristan agency and facing countrywide terror attacks. Struggling to cope with growing public opposition to US drones attacks in its Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the Frontier province, it now faces the prospects of additional attacks with a bigger ambit, possibly in the Balochistan province.

Parallels to US strategy in Iraq are clearly visible as the effort is to implement the success achieved there. Foremost is to move in the new forces to secure key population centres controlled by the Taleban-led insurgency such as Khost and Kandahar besides Kabul. Second, to build Afghan security forces and other local forces to fight the insurgents and to enable the transfer of security functions. Encouraging the building of local forces among tribes and financing the training and acquisition of weapons will be a key aim, much along the lines of the Sons of Iraq initiative. There is no doubt that stabilisation of Afghanistan is crucial.

However, the continued refusal of the US to address the wellspring of extremism in the Middle East will continue to defeat its ultimate goal. America has to strike a balance between fighting extremism and doing what is right — morally and ethically — as the world’s sole superpower. Obama understands this and hopefully will take his country on this path, as he promised he will in his Inaugural address, and his speeches in Turkey and Ankara.


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