Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

U.S. mid-terms and the Afghan war


A sign directs voters to a District of Columbia polling place in Washington, October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed/FilesIt’s one of the biggest weeks in U.S. politics, with the mid-term elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it may well eventually impact the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even though it’s not been a campaign issue. If the Republicans win big, as everyone expects them to, what happens to President Barack Obama’s war strategy for the two countries, increasingly operating as two full-fledged theatres, rather than a conjoined Af-Pak mission?

Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations says given the Republicans’ solid support for the war in Afghanistan, a defeat may not be such a bad thing for Obama so far as his Afghan mission is concerned in the near term. Support and funding for the war could be enhanced if they gained control, which may not be the case if the Democrats, who have serious doubts about the mission, were to return. Big Republican gains will also signal to Afghanistan and Pakistan that America remained serious and committed to the region, despite a deteriorating security environment on both sides of the Durand Line.

Indeed the one big reason why the war hasn’t made it as a campaign issue is because of the schisms it has opened in the two parties. Democrats are silent because many oppose the war but don’t want to run on an anti-Obama platform. Most Republicans, on the other hand, support the war but now find themselves uncomfortably aligned with a Democratic president whose every other policy they are bitterly opposed to.

But this may not be the situation for long. First off, carrying the argument further,  many Republicans who support Obama’s decision to send additional troops don’t like the idea of setting out  a withdrawal date as the president did when announcing the surge.  They argue that the July 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of troops to begin sends the wrong signals to U.S. partners in the region who question Washington’s commitment, as well as further emboldens the insurgents to simply wait out the U.S. departure from the region. They are also more likely, reflexively, to oppose any truck with the Taliban; certainly not at this point when the insurgency is at its strongest. They would rather General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces, were given more time to pound the militants into coming to the negotiating table.  As Politico blog says :