U.S. President Barack Obama is facing a storm of voter discontent but in India where he travels three days after this week’s huge congressional elections, he’s already a winner. More than seven out of 10 Indians endorse his leadership, saying they believe he will do the right thing in world affairs, a Pew poll released in late October showed.
Contrast that with his approval ratings at home just as he heads into the critical midterm election. More people disapprove of his job performance (47 percent) than the number who approve (45 percent), according to the latest CBS news/New York Times opinion poll.
It’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.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India is still a couple of weeks away and there is the huge U.S. election before then, but it has already set off ripples in the region. The Chinese have especially cottoned onto Obama’s Indian journey, fretting over what they see as a U.S. attempt to ring fence China by deepening ties with countries around it. And continent-size India with a population of over a billion and an economy growing at a clip just behind China’s is seen as a key element of that strategy of containment.
Qui Hao of the National Defense University, writes in the Global Times that while U.S. military alliances with Japan and South Korea form the backbone of the “strategic fence” around China, the “shell” is the partnership that Washington is building with India, Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.
It’s not just Pakistan where the United States has stepped up air raids against members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Last month, U.S-led NATO planes in Afghanistan conducted 700 missions, more than twice the number for the same month the previous year. It was also one of the highest single-month totals of the nine-year Afghan War, the military-focused Danger Room blog said, citing U.S. Air Force statistics.
September was also the month when missile strikes by unmanned U.S. drone planes in northwest Pakistan hit the highest level of 20 since America launched its secret war inside Pakistan, widely seen as the main battleground of the Afghan war because of the sanctuary provided to top al Qaeda and Taliban. And as if that was not enough, NATO helicopters from Afghanistan crossed the border on at least three occasions, triggering a firestorm of criticism in Pakistan which closed off the supply lines to the foreign troops in Afghanistan.
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have often called the Taliban cowards for planting crude roadside bombs, the biggest killer of troops and civilians. They should come out and fight like men, instead of planting these improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and then slipping away into the countryside. If you are out on a patrol with the forces, that’s the kind of thing you often hear.
But some people are questioning this kind of labelling, asking if it is right to dismiss your enemies as cowards, especially one in this case that has fought the world’s most powerful military to a draw, if not a possible retreat.
One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward’s re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book “Obama’s Wars” is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.
Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Friday as stronger-than expected economic data from China and the United States boosted confidence in the global economic recovery.
U.S. Treasury prices slipped as investors turned to stocks and the dollar held steady after dropping to an eight-month low against a basket of currencies the previous day.
Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars” is making waves for laying bare the policy divisions and the personality clashes within the administration over the U.S. President’s Afghan policy. The author, according to the excerpts published by the New York Times and the Washington Post ahead of the book’s release next week, exposes the colliding egos of senior political and military figures in even more stark detail than Rolling Stone‘s profile of General Stanley McChrystal that cost the U.S. commander his job.
But what may turn out to be even more explosive in the theatre where America’s longest war is being waged is the revelation that the CIA is running a 3,000-strong Afghan army to carry out clandestine operations in not just Afghanistan, but more importantly over the border in Pakistan. The idea that an Afghan army is fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistan is not something that Islamabad can tolerate easily. Or at least the public disclosure of it.
A furious debate has raged for several months now whether it makes sense for the United States to throw tens of thousands of soldiers at a handful of al Qaeda that remain in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, nine years after launching the global war on terrorism.
CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC News in June thatal-Qaeda’s presencein Afghanistan was now “relatively small … I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100.” And in nextdoor Pakistan, arguably the more dangerous long-term threat, there were about 300 al Qaeda leaders and fighters, officials separately estimated.