Obama offers an opening to Pakistan
Mushahid Hussain, The News, December 05, 2009
Caught between competing constituencies, President Barack Obama has chosen the best of a bad bargain. Having inherited a weak hand, he is treading the middle ground between open-ended escalation and an immediate exit.
The right -- Republicans, conservatives, the military establishment -- urged a heavy-hitting, long-staying strategy woven around a massive use of force. Conversely, Obama's core constituency -- Democrats, liberals, minorities -- sought a total change of course from the Bush years that saw the United States isolated and bogged down in an unwinnable war without end.
Using the 'patriotic' platform of the US military academy, President Obama played his last card on Afghanistan -- conceding to a surge but coupling it with an 18-month time frame of withdrawal, coinciding with the beginning of his re-election campaign in the summer of 2011. He is smart enough to know that 30,000 troops will not reverse the wrongs of eight years of occupation by the 100,000 already present there, but he does not want to come across as a 'weak' president, especially when the right is baying for his blood.
Obama has lowered his sights and limited his goals. No longer a quest for military victory, nation-building for Afghanistan has been discarded and the desire of a long-drawn military occupation has given way to a hard-nosed reality check. A majority of Americans now feel the Afghan adventure is an exercise in futility, the US economy has put finite limits to spending on foreign wars and the military situation in Afghanistan is more favourable to the Taliban rather than the 43-nation 'coalition of the willing' that has put in boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
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