By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
AFGHANISTAN – United States President Obama declared that an extra 4,000 troops would be sent to Afghanistan in an effort to fight against the Taliban and al-Quaeda.
Obama said, “I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Quaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”
This announcement followed an Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review that occurred soon after he took the oath of office.
Obama warned that the same terrorists behind the September 11, 2001 attacks were plotting another attack on the United States from Pakistani soil.
He further stressed that Afghanistan was in peril of falling into the hands of Islamic militants. He said that “[i]f the Afghanistan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Quaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists.”
Therefore, the main goal is to rebuild civilian infrastructure within Afghanistan. The 4,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan is to train and support the Afghan police and army. In addition, more troops are needed from NATO allies. In sum, Obama hopes to build the Afghan army to 134,000 and the police to 82,000. Agricultural specialists, engineers and lawyers would also be sent to the country.
The Afghan government fully supports Obama’s policy. Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada stated that “the recognition of the regional aspect of the problem in Afghanistan and specifically recognition that the al-Quaeda threat is mainly emanating from Pakistan.”
However, Obama recognized that the plan could not be carried out alone. Obama is focused on utilizing allies “to confront our common enemy.” He said that the existence of al Quaeda and the Taliban pose an international security threat, especially to the nations that border Afghanistan.
“Together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region,” he said. This contact group is set to include “our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China.”
Although there has been tension between the U.S. and Iran, Obama hopes to strengthen their diplomatic ties.
“We see Iran as an important player related to Afghanistan. We see this as a very productive area for engagement in the future.”
Iran foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said, “We will participate in the Afghanistan meeting. At what level, I don’t know yet, but we will participate.”
The U.S. further seeks help from the Pakistani government to put pressure on al-Quaeda. In exchange, Obama is asking Congress to pass a bill that would authorize the tripling of spending in Pakistan to $1.5 billion each year over the next five years. The money will be spent to help rebuild schools, hospitals and roads.
For more information, please see:
AFP – Obama Proposes Afghan Contact Group Including Iran – 27 March 2009
Associated Press – Obama: Taliban and al-Quaida Must Be Stopped – 27 March 2009
BBC – U.S. Rethinks Afghanistan Strategy – 27 March 2009
Boston Globe – Obama Plans More Afghan Reinforcements – 26 March 2009