Obama's Fresh Start in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Prospects

Abubakar Siddique and Ron Synovitz 11/09/08
A EurasiaNet Partner Post from RFE/RL

The fight against militant extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is one of the major foreign policy and security challenges facing US President-elect Barack Obama, and campaign insiders say his administration plans to reassess US strategy on the region as one of its first priorities.

The conflicting views of US and Afghan officials, regional analysts, and Obama advisers on the issue reveal the difficult decisions that are going to face the new president when he takes office on January 20.

During his campaign, Obama promised to pull US troops out of Iraq within 16 months and transfer many of those soldiers to the Afghan theater.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author who has followed developments in the region for more than three decades, says an increase in US troops alone will not resolve the complex crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Rashid tells RFE/RL that any new strategy developed by Obama’s administration should aim for a comprehensive regional settlement.

"I think Obama is much more open to a new strategy and a new policy. And I think that has to take the shape of, first, a regional approach to ending the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Rashid says. "That means bringing in the neighboring countries: Iran, India, and the five Central Asian states, and then resolving some of these regional problems -- like the disputes between India and Pakistan, between Iran and the Americans, between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"[It also means], at the same time, reallocating resources, troops, money, [and] aid in a much better and more comprehensive way than what we have seen so far from the Bush administration."

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