Focus on Afghanistan
By Matthew Schaller
As President Obama’s sixth year in office comes to a close, the personal vow to end the war in Afghanistan conflicts with the explicit timetable set forth by the White House. The 2015 Agenda promises that U.S. troops will slowly transition to a training and of Afghani soldiers even as the Middle East has seen an increasing amount of Islamist extremism in places such as Iraq and Syria. In addition, recent events and events that will soon transpire are most certainly going to affect Obama’s mantra going into the new year. Troops withdrawals may support public and political opinion, but not the conflicts transpiring abroad. All in all, in order to understand this conflict in its entirety, one must analyze from grassroots all the way to the international level.
Ever since President Obama’s announcement last May on the role of U.S. troops and NATO forces through 2016, two key factors have signaled a change of pace in Afghanistan. On the one hand, the growing instability in Iraq has triggered a major increase in American advisors to prevent anymore future retreats of Iraqi forces. On the other hand, many in Washington are quickly reassessing the Taliban violence in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan as an issue that may escalate into another Iraqi conflict. This was further solidified by the December 16 school massacre in Peshawar where 148 people were slaughtered.
According to Stars and Stripes, a timely stabilizer for these issues in a timely fashion are the newly elected Afghan leaders who have shown a strong willingness to work with their American counterparts. In addition, power and legitimacy of the government would be consolidated if the power sharing agreement between President Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah proves successful. Nevertheless, this could all fall due to differing ethnic power bases. According to the USA Today, Ghani is from southern Afghanistan’s Pashtun community while Abdullah’s political base is situated mainly in the northern Tajik community.
These numerous factors at play have the administration perceiving “a higher level of risk in Afghanistan, but greater latitude as well for US action to counter it, said former top U.S. general David Barno. In order to prevent another crisis on the scale of Iraq, the Pentagon has taking initiative in recent months by utilizing an order signed by the President. The order authorizes the termination of any insurgents that may be gunning for the Afghan government. However, according to Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the congressional takeover by the Republicans will only increase discussion on Capitol Hill regarding a modification of the drawdown plans. Nevertheless, recent actions from both sides of the political divide can find common ground in the fact that Afghan security forces cannot stand on their own in the immediate future.