The mission in Afghanistan is to...

Tuesday, 24. March 2009     1 comment(s)
Charly Salonius-Pasternak
Senior Research Fellow - The Global Security research programme

The other day CBS aired an extensive interview with U.S. President Barack Obama, on its 60-minutes program. During the program, reporter Steve Kroft asked what the mission in Afghanistan should be. In contrast to most European political leaders, President Obama provided an unequivocally clear answer: “Making sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies. That's our number one priority.”

How this prioritization complicates international discussions about a new strategy for Afghanistan is unclear, any differences may be papered over in public statements. After all, almost all governments that provide support to operations in Afghanistan could probably agree on the dual number one priorities of “a government supported by Afghan people” and “a country that does not provide sanctuary to international terrorists.”

President Obama’s final comment about Afghanistan is also one politicians should think about, “So what we're looking for is a comprehensive strategy [not just military]. And there's gotta be an exit strategy. There-- there's gotta be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.”

All actors involved in Afghanistan recognize that long-term commitments are needed. Yet, if different actors have different priorities and goals, then it is reasonable to expect that what conditions will trigger their departures would also be different (though their departure times may still coincide – which is politically quite convenient). I look forward to seeing how the discussions about exit strategies develop on both sides of the Atlantic…

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

Discussion (1 comments)

29.3.2009, Isaac Svirskis

Exit stratgey is going to be messy. The only way US, Nato and other allied forces can withdrawl is by beefing up the Afghan military whilst solving the issues of cross border infiltration from Pakistan and other border states. Not only are the above issues crucial before implementing a withdrawl many over look the Iranian border and its significance in a wider regional dispute. This porus border may indeed prove to be decisve should an attack on Iran be necessary and what is to stop Afganistan becoming a new "Iraq" in the sense of Iranian activities used to such effectiveness in Iraq against US forces? You cannot have an exit strategy without addressing some or not all of the above issues and this takes time. Time that goes very quickly and very bloody all too often.

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