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Strategic Errors in Obama’s Af-Pak Policy

The president has been too naive in our dealings with NATO countries and not aggressive enough in attacking Taliban strongholds.

by
Sergio Rodriguera Jr.

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April 15, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Much of the mainstream media has labeled our new president a strategic thinker or an intellectual. No doubt he is educated and articulate. However, after seeing the results of our president’s first trip overseas, it is clear that he is making some critical strategic mistakes that could have lasting effects on our foreign policy and national security.

Joe Scarborough, in a Tweet (a post on Twitter for those not up on microblogging) on April 8, asked: “Another question for Republicans: Though we are all upset with his economic plans, can we not admit he had a good trip overseas?” Mr. Scarborough, let me assure you that we are not just upset with his economic plan.

For all the talk of Obama’s “best and brightest” advisers (a harkening back to a president elected nearly a half-century ago with a far different approach to everything from taxes to American military power), we have yet to see a stark, visionary approach to the foreign policy issues this president needs to confront. From reading the transcripts of his remarks in London, France, and Turkey, we can discern that he wants to be more engaged globally. But there is no real substance or meaning as far as how he defines this engagement. On April 3 in Strasbourg, the president repeated a line he often states: “This is our generation. This is our time. And I am confident that we can meet any challenge as long as we are together.” Very beautiful language, but again there is no substance behind the empty rhetoric.

With our brave service members in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, it only makes sense that his foreign policy priorities focus on both those nations. Unfortunately, the president failed to articulate how we will win in Afghanistan. He laid out the added 21,000 more troops he will send to the country and tasked many of those troops to embed with the Afghan National Army to help train them. Also, his plan consists of sending a civilian “surge” to the country to assist with economic development and legal issues. However, he made no statement as to their role in development or how we will guarantee their security.

The highlight of the president’s Afghanistan strategy is the economic aid package of $1.5 billion a year for five years. Again, no oversight is given to our taxpayer dollars handed over to a Pakistani government on the verge of collapse. The president assembled his key national security advisers — his best and brightest — and this is the best they can come up with?

He never discussed an effective counterinsurgency effort against the Taliban. He never mentioned that the Taliban in Pakistan, run by Behtullah Mehsud (more brutal than Mullah Omar’s Afghanistan Taliban), has called for attacks against our country. He makes no reference to the Taliban and al-Qaeda attacking our supply lines throughout the Torkham Gate between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Vice President Biden has said we are in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda yet he renounces fighting the Taliban, suggesting that these two things are reconcilable. He recently said on CNN that only 5% of the Taliban are extremists and 70% are persuadable. As usual, the media forgot to ask him where he got these numbers and what Taliban he was referring to.

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