By Dennis James:
It finally happened on the 2nd of May 2011, The United States Of America closed out the most terrifying chapter in its history. It is a day that will always be remembered by the world, as the day the World’s Most Wanted Terrorist Osama Bin Laden was finally brought to justice. In the White House, it allowed the world’s most powerful man to finalize his plans to bring his war weary troops back home, a promise he delivered on just over six weeks later.
President Barack Obama’s decision to draw down 33,000 troops from Afghanistan before finally withdrawing in 2014 signals a shift of policy from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism and is based on many factors that he had to take into perspective.
Firstly and probably the biggest reason is the growing apathy towards the war – especially the cost of running . A war which the Americans believe is the main reason for their current economic problems. The war in Afghanistan costs the American taxpayer over $ 10 billion a month and that is humungous amount to cough out, especially as the country is still struggling to get back on its feet after undergoing a painful period of recession. The average American is asking just one single question – 10 Billion dollars!!! Where are the jobs? It is felt that by bringing back the troops, that money can be used to create new jobs, something that America desperately needs to get running again. This move also gives the President some breathing room to negotiate with his Republican opposition on the U.S. budget and its deficits, and the broader, and deeper, problem of U.S. sovereign debt. The latest figures are a cause for alarm, with the budget deficit estimated to be around 1.5 TRILLION Dollars.
Secondly, the move is also a Political Masterpiece coming from a master of the game that is politics. It is not a blind throw of the dice, rather President Obama has used the timing of how the drawdown will take place to ensure that it will remain firmly ingrained in the American people’s mind when he stands for reelection in November 2012. 10,000 troops are expected to return home by the year-end. However, the timing of the return of the rest of the 23,000 troops that will return in the summer of 2012 is what the American President is relying on.
They will be back home with only a few months remaining for the country to go to the polls. Obama had been facing an immense amount of pressure from Congress on his policies, with both the Republican controlled House of Representatives and the Democrat dominated Senate questioning his actions. In fact, Congressmen united together, going beyond Political boundaries and putting immense pressure on the President to end an unpopular war, that has gone on for a decade, especially as the reason for the war itself is now buried at sea. Also, the draw down is a political victory for Vice President Joe Biden over his more Hawkish colleagues like the Outgoing Secretary of Defense Gates and his successor to that post Present CIA Director Leon Panetta. The policy also gives President Obama the chance to prove his Nobel Prize winning credentials once again after calling the troops back from Iraq last year.
Thirdly and finally, from a military perspective, the draw down will mean that generals will have less men on the ground during next years major fighting period. However, the role of the Military in Afghanistan is changing considerably now. With the Taliban talking and the southern parts of the country calming down the US and other NATO forces can now focus their attention on a much deadlier target, the eastern border with the Tribal regions of Pakistan. The CIA’s role will come more into focus as General David Petraeus who will now head the Clandestine agency has stated that the US intends to go after the Pakistani Taliban especially the Haqqani network who operate out of Waziristan, a region described by Washington as the most dangerous region in the world. The appointment of Petraeus may signal more surgical drone strikes like the one which killed Illyas Kashmiri last month.
What this also signals is that the US is keeping in mind a bigger picture here. It is claimed that most of the gas from Central Asia will be piped through Afghanistan and through Balochistan to sea routes in the future. The US will maintain at least a small force in the country in the very way they have done in Iraq to ensure that this asset does not slip through its fingers.
The question that comes to us is that What does the drawdown signal for India? It may come with both good points and bad points. The good thing is that the US wants a greater Indian influence in the region, seeing that we are helping out the Afghans in setting up a lot of their infrastructure.
Also, the American push against terrorists in Pakistan,especially the killing of Osama and the drone strikes, is forcing the Pakistani govt. to act and push troops into the tribal areas relieving pressure for us on our border with Pakistan. The other side of the coin that could emerge is that we may return to Pre-9/11 status quo, with the Taliban returning in Afghanistan and Pakistan going back to pushing terrorists into India, but that’s the worst case scenario.
What the outcome of the drawdown will be is still to be seen, however before you focus your attention elsewhere, here’s a startling fact. When Bush left the White House the troop figure in Afghanistan was 43,000, a startling 25,000 less than the figure that will be there when Obama faces his judgment. This may be the Closing of chapter, but its not the ending of the book yet. Don’t hedge your bets on Obama already!!!