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Mission to Afghanistan
President Barack ObamaAfter weeks of meetings with his top political and military advisors, and intense deliberation President Barack Obama outlined his Afghan policy in a speech to the nation.
Yussuf J. SimmondsSentinel Managing Editor
According to President Barack Obama, his mission to Afghanistan is "to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat Al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. To do so, we and our allies will surge our forces, targeting elements of the insurgency and securing key population centers, training Afghan forces, transferring responsibility to a capable Afghan partner, and increasing our partnership with Pakistanis who are facing the same threats."
Within the context of that goal is the reality of the history of the region, the differences between the tribal languages of the Afghan people and the American soldiers; their culture, value system, religion and their entire way of life. To win the hearts and minds of the people--which is a part of the overall strategy--their system of values has to be overhauled, and like the people in that part of the world have said in the past, "despite your good intentions, you have to humiliate us to control us." It is an uphill battle, literally and metaphorically.
In the introductory part of his speech President Obama said, "As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda--a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world's great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda's base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban--a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere."
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35), a supporter of the President said, "I believe President Obama has appropriately devoted considerable time and given much thought to formulating a strategy for moving forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Bush took his focus off of Afghanistan earlier on and allowed U.S. policy there to drift for many years. However, I am opposed to sending 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and I am not convinced that this so-called new strategy fully addresses the concerns that many Americans have about extending our military operations there."
Congresswoman Laura Richardson (CA-37) also a supporter of the president said,
"Tonight, President Obama said:
1. The current situation is not working and a new 18-month plan is needed.
2. The plan includes:
-Military effort of 30,000 troops
-Civilian Surge with performance standards and accountability
-Partnership with Pakistan
3. The United States had no intention of occupying Afghanistan OR controlling Afghanistan's resources.
4. As the United States deploys a military strategy, efforts will also be made to enhance our homeland security, intelligence, elimination of tools of mass destruction, diplomacy and re-establishment of alliances efforts, allowing us to finally come back to the driving force of our American values."
As lofty as the President's goals are there are some domestic realities he also has to come to grips with. First and foremost is the economy; many at home cannot see or understand why the need to continue spending American most valuable resources--lives and money--when there are so many needs going unmet at here at home. Masses of Americans are suffering and to them, their needs should come first. In taking a reality check, one only has to look at one basic need to feel the hurt of many Americans--the housing foreclosure--their dream turning into a nightmare. And it is not unpatriotic to think that the majority of Americans, who pay the taxes that are being spent on the war, do not participate in the spending decisions of their tax dollars ... regardless of the empty words, "our tax dollars."
But Congresswoman Waters also stated, "I cannot support a continued policy of waste and open-ended spending in Afghanistan, especially given the severe economic challenges we must confront within our own country. For eight years, the United States has invested $220 billion dollars in Afghanistan. Despite the amount of money and resources expended, the Taliban is stronger than ever, the Afghan government is corrupt, and the country has failed to achieve functioning democratic institutions and economic development. President Obama's strategy will cost the United States $30 billion more per year to implement. Moreover, I am not entirely convinced that our senior military officials will do a better job of tracking the spending and ensuring that our investment in Afghanistan does not lead to further waste, mismanagement, and careless outsourcing to private contractors whose connections we do not fully understand. If this is the "new" strategy, then the billions of dollars the Administration plans to spend in Afghanistan would be better spent to help create jobs in the United States, respond more effectively to the ongoing foreclosure crisis and meet our other domestic needs."
And Congresswoman Richardson also said,
"Tonight, President Obama did NOT say, "Since 2001, 900 United States soldiers have died, thousands injured with lifetime disabilities, and more than $220 billion spent on the war in Afghanistan. In addition, in 2009, the U.S. intends to have spent $60 billion dollars and tonight President Obama suggested spending another $30 billion.
"Tonight, President Obama did NOT say:
1. How are we, the United States, going to pay for continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
2. How many tours will our soldiers have to serve without sufficient breaks in-between?
3. What will United States citizens not be able to achieve domestically due to the war expenditures?
4. Will the President support an aggressive domestic agenda that will significantly and tangibly reduce unemployment for rural and urban America and not just Wall Street?
5. What resources and troops are our allies (43 nation coalition) willing to commit and for how long?
6. After the 18 months, how long will it take to draw down the troops and at what cost and would any Americans remain in any capacity?
7. What tangible assurances do we have that Pakistan will be a true ally and join the U.S. as a full fledged member in our joint fight for not just interests but results in this war on terror?
8. Is it feasible and is the Afghan government capable to complete the transition and maintain it?
"Tonight, the President said we have lost our balance of emphasis and resources between our national programs and national security. That is the most important point I agree with. I agree there is nothing more important than building our home and our nation, which is just as important as the repair of another nation. What good is security if we have nothing left to secure."
But there are two sides to every story and sometimes three. Kerman Maddox, a staunch supporter of the president, in reference to sending more troops to Afghanistan, said, "I think he has to do it at this point because Al Qaeda is based in the hills of Afghanistan on the border of Pakistan, and if you don't send American troops over there, we are going to be in trouble over here because they are going to get nuclear weapons and shoot it towards us."
Community activist George Mc Neal believes, "What he (President Obama) is doing won't solve the problem, it will cause more devastation in Afghanistan. They can't win over there and instead of trying to win the war, they should be trying to stop the war or prevent the war because ultimately there won't be any real winners. Thirty five thousand troops are not even adequate. They should not be sending any more troops over there, period."
Whatever, President Obama did or did not do, he would have had detractors and critics--from the left and the right. At this juncture in his presidency, only time will tell.