4: Afghanistan – Pakistan
Already during the election campaign, Obama made Afghanistan a major issue. It was in Afghanistan and not in Iraq that the central front in the fight against international terrorism was located. As president, Obama followed up this view by first sending another 21,000 US troops to Afghanistan. On March 27, he also presented a new Afghanistan strategy. He maintained the Bush administration’s goal of preventing al-Qaeda from rebuilding bases in Afghanistan, but his strategy entailed two important changes: He advocated
- Lavere a lower political ambition where no longer the introduction of democracy, but security and stability is the main goal.
- To focus US military efforts on protecting the population, and not, as in the past, concentrate on the hunt for terrorists. An anti-terrorist strategy was replaced by an anti-insurgency strategy.
As part of this change, Obama also replaced the leader of the US military in Afghanistan this summer. It is a very important precondition for the success of an anti-insurgency strategy that Afghanistan itself has a government that most people trust.
From the very beginning, Obama has linked the challenge in Afghanistan to developments in Pakistan. Much of what is happening in Afghanistan has its roots in Pakistan and – to a lesser extent – in other countries in the region. Among other things, Taliban fighters move back and forth across the border between the two countries. For the United States, it is also a horror scenario that Pakistan with its nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of Muslim extremists with close contact to terrorist organizations. In that case, the world will be faced with a qualitatively new terrorist threat.
In August, Obama claimed that the war in Afghanistan was a necessary war that the United States could not afford to lose. In other words, the president believes that the conflict in this country affects vital American interests. During the summer and autumn, however, several factors have made Obama already have to reconsider his strategy in Afghanistan. The increased military effort has led to increased losses of American soldiers, and thus also increasing skepticism and opposition to the war in the United States, a country located in North America according to franciscogardening. Well over half of Americans believe – according to opinion polls – that the war is not worth the effort.
The fraud surrounding the presidential election in Afghanistan has also raised doubts in the Obama administration about Karzai having the necessary confidence in the Afghan people. And last but perhaps most importantly, Obama’s military chief of staff in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, paints a grim picture of the situation in the status report he recently handed over to President Obama. McChrystal claims here that a successful implementation of the strategy that Obama chose in March, presupposes that the United States sends up to 40,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan.
Obama will soon have to make a decision on the further handling of the situation in Afghanistan. He has already said that there is no question of reducing military efforts. There are many indications that the winner of the Peace Prize will instead choose to step up the US war effort. And one should not ignore the fact that this war may constitute a dominant feature for the rest of his time as American president. Whether Obama succeeds in Afghanistan will largely depend on his ability to get American public opinion. So far, he has not been able to create the necessary understanding for this war or support for his policy.
5: Iran – Middle East – Europe
Relations with Iran are a key factor in tackling a number of US security policy challenges. It is important to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, with the negative consequences this will have both for the stability of the Gulf region and for the work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, Iran’s involvement is crucial to achieving a stable Iraq the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Iran’s actions also have a direct bearing on developments in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Ever since before the election, Obama has believed that the Bush administration’s line of isolation from Iran had failed, and that a direct dialogue with the regime in Tehran would give the United States better opportunities to achieve its goals. If dialogue did not lead either, at least the United States would then have improved its ability to win international support for the use of military force against Iran.