The Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodwards’ book gives us insights from White House Situation Room #1 where Obama’s National Security Council is discussing Afghan war. CIA analyst, Mr. Riedel, thoroughly investigates the war in question and presents his thesis to First Customer – a code word CIA uses for the President of The United States. Riedel report suggests that not only US Forces’ commandors but also it’s troops are disillusioned about the mission. Some say it’s to defeat the Taliban and other think it’s to protect local population. Even after eight years of war, victory is beyond consideration. This war, which was supposed to be fought by NATO forces and ISAF combined, is Americanized now. Focus should be across the border where, according to the Riedel report, Taliban leadership resides. More troops and change in military leadership are suggested and these suggestions are approved by commander in chief. It was supposed to solve the Afghan question. But it does not happen.
General McChrystal, who is the new commander of US forces in Afghanistan requests for more troops within some months of fresh injections. This surprises NSC because, in Riedel report, it was proposed that more troops won’t be demanded for a year almost. And now McChrystal is saying that if 40,000 more troops are not provided, United States can loose this war within a year. 40,000 more US troops and a total of 400,000 ANSF- Afghan National Security Forces men can let America fighting this war. Yes, only that. A hefty budget allocation of almost one trillion dollars for the next 8 to ten years will only keep the war going on. Victory is not even under consideration. Not only that, Pentagon goes to press in order to gain public support for their plan. This infuriates the civilian brass of Obama’s NSC which is split into two evident groups. One, led by Admiral Micheal Mulen and General Patreaus who supported General McChrystal’s demand of 40,000 fresh US troops and 400,000 AFNS men and the other, led by vice president Joe Biden who wanted a rationalized and result-oriented decision. Then is the long story on how the military establishment tries to ‘box in’ POTUS. Every plan presented to Obama led to the original plan and without any guaranteed success.
American ambassador for Afghanistan Eikenberry presents the NSC with a four level exit plan which is; clear, hold, build and transfer. Obama sticks with this and later on comes to the conclusion that US is on holding level. Building the nation is a tiresome, long term plan with an indefinite time line. So he skips the building and focuses on transferring power to Afghans so that America may withdraw it’s forces ASAP. Karzai’s corrupt and incompetent government is discussed repetitively along with Pakistan’s doubtful cooperation.
Anyhow, Obama refuses to bulge against an immense pressure from Pentagon. He gives them two options; one, to give 30,000 more troops linking it with a withdrawal deadline after 18-24 months, two, to give only 10,000 trainers. Though there is a huge hue and cry from different corners but Obama sticks to his exit strategy. Pentagon surrenders in the favour of first option.
How Obama’s NSC reached to this decision is important because it was after this plan that US forces started to come back. From more than 100,000 US troops to almost 15,000 troops are now in Afghanistan.
Implications for Pakistan:
The country which is discussed more after Afghanistan, is Pakistan. It’s role and a negative image in the eyes of it’s allies is very dismal. Even after sacrificing thousands of it’s innocent citizens in this war on terror, it is considered to be a country which harbours terrorism. One wonders at the bargaining power of a weak Karzai and how he negotiates with US officials. And how a country with nuclear power and immense sacrifices is treated. Since perception is more important than reality, Pakistan needs to reframe it’s foreign policy in order to gain that much international acclaim which it deserves.