Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Exit Afghanistan?

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The opinions expressed are his own

In his victory speech to a rapturous crowd in Chicago following his re-election, President Barack Obama affirmed that America’s “decade-long conflict” in Afghanistan will now end. The line was greeted with prolonged applause — and understandably so. In fact, this ill-advised war — launched on the basis of a United Nations Security Council resolution — has been grinding on for 11 years, making it the longest in American history.

At the beginning, the war was aimed at eliminating Al Qaeda, vanquishing the Taliban, and transforming Afghanistan into something resembling a Western-style nation-state. With none of these goals fully achieved, America’s intervention — like every other intervention in Afghanistan’s history — is ending unsatisfactorily.

As the curtain drops, two developments will greatly influence the withdrawal process and the ultimate outcome. The first is the management of the transition to Afghan control, which depends on an orderly withdrawal of American and NATO forces by 2014. The second is the election, also to be held in 2014, of a new Afghan president — a process that needs to permit the United States and its NATO allies to claim plausibly that they are handing the country over to a legitimate government.

For Afghanistan, ravaged by war without respite since the “Saur Revolution” of 1978, the endgame will be even more nerve-wracking. As the U.S. military leaves, it will enter another period of political and strategic uncertainty, after almost a half-century of disorder and civil war.

US-India strategic partnership set to grow in second Obama administration

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The re-election of President Barack Obama is likely to be more promising and fruitful for the growing strategic partnership between India and the United States. During the second Obama administration, his India policies are expected to be upgraded further and there would possibly be more tangible outcomes from policy pronouncements made in the last four years.

Trade freedom: how imports support U.S. jobs

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Conventional wisdom says that exports are beneficial and imports are harmful. Conventional wisdom is wrong. A key element of this misperception is the mistaken idea that imports into a country cost jobs there. In fact, imports contribute to job creation.

News Flash: Pakistan is NOT a U.S. ally

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

U.S. media commentators acted with surprise about reports that Pakistani officials may have given the Chinese access to the downed helicopter left behind in Pakistan following the May 2 bin Laden raid.

Life after the U.S. rating downgrade

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(Nipun Mehta is a veteran private banker with many years of experience across Asia. The views expressed in the column are his own and not those of Reuters)

The unthinkable (for some) happened last week when the U.S. economy was downgraded from ‘AAA’ to ‘AA+’ with a negative outlook by Standard & Poor’s, one of the three large global rating agencies.

U.S. drops from AAA to AA+

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

It was S&P that took the lead and downgraded the U.S. with a ‘negative outlook’. The other rating agencies are not comfortable either with the current debt and fiscal status of the U.S. government and may only confirm later what S&P has already done now.

Laden link to HuM shows Pakistan must do more to fight terrorism

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

New information revealing a Kashmir-focused militant group with links to Pakistani intelligence helped shield Osama bin Laden demonstrates the U.S. must press Pakistani authorities to take a more comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism.

After bin Laden: Do not retreat from Afghanistan

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The killing of Osama bin Laden should strengthen U.S. resolve to stabilise Afghanistan and ensure that it does not return to serving as a safe haven for terrorists intent on attacking the U.S. homeland.

After bin Laden: Bringing change to Pakistan’s counterterrorism policies

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The U.S. unilateral operation to track and kill Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan has raised several questions about the sustainability of the U.S.- Pakistan partnership in the fight against global terrorism.

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