Foreign Policy Blogs

Obama Goes 'All In'

I apologize for my recent absence as I was getting married. Speaking of marriage, while I was gone US President Barack Obama deepened his ties to the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Obama administration held another trilateral meeting with Afghan’s Karzai and Pakistan’s Zardari in DC, defended the US military’s use of airstrikes in the face of allegations of serious Afghan civilian casualties in the town of Farah, and lastly, but probably most importantly, replaced current US commander in the country, Gen. David McKiernan with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a former Green Beret who recently commanded the military’s secretive special operations forces in Iraq. These steps and policy changes further Obama’s influence and footprint on the conflict and tie him and the US to its conclusion.

In terms of Obama’s new Afghan strategy of more troops and more direct action with Taliban combatants, Obama’s administration is standing strong in its beliefs so far. Though it faced much criticism from President Karzai, on Meet the Press in fact, and many Afghan citizens over the use of air strikes, which are less discriminate in their victims, Obama’s National Security Adviser asserted that the US would not give up the tactic: “We’re going to take a look at trying to make sure that we correct those things we can correct, but certainly to tie the hands of our commanders and say we’re not going to conduct air strikes, it would be imprudent.” However, CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus also stated that we must ensure “that our tactical actions don’t undermine our strategic goals and objectives.”


Gen. David McKiernan 'Out'

The replacement of McKiernan with McChrystal, and his new deputy Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to run daily military operations in Afghanistan also shows an Obama administration willing to dive deep into the conflict in order to fight it the way it wishes to fight it. Secretary of State Bob Gates stated that we needed “new leadership and fresh eyes” in the conflict and this should be seen to mean that McKiernan was not the administration’s man to run its new Afghan policy. There seemed to be the feeling that McKiernan was too conventional a military man and the situation needed more of a modern, counterinsurgency leader, which fits McChrystal and Rodriquez’s background. It is assumed the former leader of special operations in Iraq, McChrystal, will emphasize more commando raids against insurgents and their facilities.


Lt. Gen. McChrystal 'In'

Only time will tell how this change and Obama’s deepening ownership of this war will turn out.