Success in Afghanistan is Critical for Obama’s Presidency

Published on December 2, 2009

By Nehginpao Kipgen 

In less than a month from his visit to Asia in November, president Barack Obama announced 30,000 troops’ increase in Afghanistan on the night of 1st December. Obama, who is the most traveled U.S. president in the first year in White House, indicated his administration’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan during his recent visit to Asia.
 
In his speech, the president said the new policy was designed to "bring this war to a successful conclusion." When he became president in January, there were roughly 34,000 troops on the ground; there now are 71,000. The war which often was termed ‘Bush’s War’ has now become ‘Obama’s War’. The U.S. still maintains more than 100,000 troops in Iraq.
 
The commander in chief chose a military academy over the White House to deliver his policy speech. The first batch of troops will arrive by Christmas and the last batch by the summer of 2010. The troop build up was requested in September by commanding General Stanley McChrystal.
 
The 3-month long deliberations of war strategy earned praise and criticisms from supporters and opponents alike. Supporters applauded Obama for taking the time to do in-depth study of the situation before taking any decision. His opponents, mostly Republicans, slammed him for the delayed action. Dick Cheney, former vice president, said Obama was “dithering" and too inexperienced to make a decision.
 
There are three important agendas that are critical to the reelection of the president in 2012. In the domestic front, fixing the economy thereby creating more jobs, and passing a healthcare reform bill is very critical. In the international front, winning the war in Afghanistan is a paramount importance.
 
The U.S. economy is the worst since the Great Depression with high unemployment rate. The war in Afghanistan will cost about $30 billion for the first year. The public support for the war is waning. A new survey by the Gallup poll, released on December 1, showed only 35 percent of Americans now approve of Obama’s handling of the war, and 55 percent disapprove.
 
Since his presidential campaign, Obama was critical of the war in Iraq, and argued that Afghanistan was the center front in the fight against terrorism. With the release of 30, 000 more troops, Obama wants to show the Americans and the world that he is committed to dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and Taliban fighters along Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
 
For Obama, having an exit strategy is as much important as sending in more troops. Obama assured that the U.S. forces will begin coming home in July 2011. However, his critics are wary that laying out a timeline will send al-Qaida and Taliban fighters underground until the American troops begin to leave.
 
Despite the significant commitment, Washington needs to demonstrate that this war is not a unilateral one by convincing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and other coalition partners to contribute and participate more.
 
A stable Afghan government and military is essential to winning the war. The U.S. and its partners need to win the hearts and minds of the general public who could help them in their fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban fighters.
 
The war has dragged on for eight years now since 2001, and it will take years to rebuild the country. The success of the new strategy and winning the war is very critical for Obama’s presidency
 
Nehginpao Kipgen is a political analyst and general secretary of the U.S.-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com). He has written numerous analytical articles on the politics of Asia for many leading international newspapers in Asia, Africa, and the United States of America.