Obama outlines Afghanistan plan; Australian government will reintroduce rejected climate change bill next year; Philippine mayor charged with mass murder; NATO pledges 5000 extra troops for Afghanistan
Top of the Agenda: Obama's Afghan Strategy
In a speech Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. President Barack Obama sought to convince the U.S. public that the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan were direct threats (NYT) to the United States and that he could expand U.S. involvement in the war while also setting an exit strategy. Obama will send thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan in 2010, but said he would start drawing U.S. forces out of the country in July 2011. He stressed that the United States could not afford an open-ended commitment and promised to "bring this war to a successful conclusion." He laid out a strategy to reverse the Taliban's strength and increase pressure on Afghanistan's government to build up its military and increase its attacks on al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Obama also directed a message to Hamid Karzai, saying, "The days of providing a blank check are over." Obama said the new strategy would cost $30 billion in the first year.
Adding thirty thousand U.S. troops to the roughly seventy thousand in Afghanistan now is close to what General Stanley McChrystal requested, but the scheduled removal of troops presents him with an urgent timeline (WashPost). Some Republicans say the deadline for withdrawal aids the Taliban insurgency. Democrats, meanwhile, have criticized the strategy as too expensive in light of the bleak domestic economy. Obama is relying on the notion that Karzai will respond to pressure to reform his government and that the Taliban will not wait out the U.S. military presence.
On Politico, CFR's Richard Haass says Obama's view that U.S. interests in Afghanistan are vital is debatable and that what happens in Afghanistan may not be critical to its more important neighbor, Pakistan.
In the Wall Street Journal, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf says an exit strategy should be based on achieving military and political goals rather than time limits.
In the Washington Post, David Ignatius says Obama made the right decision and that the only viable exit strategy from Afghanistan "is one that starts with a bang," as the addition of thirty thousand more U.S. troops in 2010 will ultimately allow control to be transferred to the Afghan army and police.
In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman says a minimalist approach of working with tribal leaders is better than Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan, given the need for "nation-building at home."
In an interview, CFR's Senior Fellow for Defense Policy Stephen Biddle says Obama's announcement of a date for U.S. forces to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan could provoke criticism from wary Democrats, but also says the U.S. "is uncomfortable with long stays."
In an interview, CFR's Kim Barker, on return from a recent trip to Kabul, says Afghans are disillusioned with both the reelection of Karzai and what they perceive as the U.S desire for an exit strategy.
A CFR Backgrounder examines the troubled Afghan-Pakistani border.
PACIFIC RIM: Australia's Climate Change Bill
The Australian Senate voted against (Australian) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's climate change bill, but the government says it will reintroduce the rejected legislation next year.
Philippines: A Philippine mayor, Andal Ampatuan Jr., has been charged with twenty-five counts of murder (GlobalTimes) in connection with last week's mass murder of fifty-seven unarmed civilians and journalists.
Elsewhere: Nato pledges at least five thousand additional troops for Afghanistan.