Obama and Afghanistan

Obama and Afghanistan

With so much going on around the environmental legislation and international negotiations leading up to December’s Copenhagen summit and Obama and the press giving the health care reform debate center stage, it’s sometimes difficult for the common news consumer to remember something: We’re at war.
The War in Afghanistan continues to happen, regardless of what is happening in Iraq or what protesters have to say. And even though Obama was/is a proponent of reducing troop numbers and moving out of Iraq, he is very much a proponent of continuing the war in Afghanistan- and he’s not afraid to make a speech about it.

"This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity," Obama said. "Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting, this is fundamental to the defense of our people," Obama said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Numbers backing the war in Afghanistan are not as high as they once were, and while he reiterated that troops are on pace to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, he remains steadfast in his conviction that the war in Afghanistan is both one worth fighting and one that will take a long time.  

"The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight, and we won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick nor easy."

He believes in stabilizing the region, and the upcoming elections in Afghanistan are an ideal opportunity to see if the U.S. presence is doing that. Obama has moved 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan since taking office, putting a lot of effort and people-power into preserving the democracy there. The Taliban has made clear that they want to disrupt the elections.

July saw a record 44 troops killed in Afghanistan, and with these elections, it could be higher this month, that remains to be seen. Obama is pushing for more civilian reconstruction efforts to go along with the increased troop levels, hopefully as a positive side to the state of democracy and rebuilding after decades of the Taliban rule.

The most recent CNN poll has U.S. public support for the war at 41%, a new low. Obama’s strategy, in addition to raising troop numbers and involves going to the hills of Pakistan, where many of the bases of the resistance has moved. Obama is also actively seeking partnership with Pakistan’s government to help battle the insurgency.

This should come as no real surprise to those who followed Obama’s rhetoric during the campaign last Fall. He accused the Bush administration of ignoring Afghanistan and putting too much time and effort into Iraq. His approach now is exactly what he said the Bush administration was lacking- more troops, time and focus on the war in Afghanistan, one that Obama continues to believe is important not only for the worldwide state of democracy but also as an extended defense of Americans.