Tomorrow, President Obama will announce his plan for a reduction of American forces in Afghanistan starting next month. Reports indicate he will pledge to remove 30,000 “surge” troops by the end of 2012. That plan would begin a gradual but sustained transition and is broadly supported by commanders on the ground. These numbers exist in a broader context. Beginning the transition means recognizing the successes of the core counterterrorism mission -- with 20 of the top 30 terrorist targets in the region having been killed on Obama's watch. It means putting Afghans in the lead following an increase in resources that helped stabilize the situation after years of neglect. America’s commitment in Afghanistan has been costly and lengthy. Troop reductions will allow Afghans to take responsibility for their own country and begin to align American interests in the country with our commitment there.
The next challenge lies in the overall mission, military but above all political and economic. Troops that remain should focus on continuing to root out terrorists. The secondary focus for the security mission should be training Afghan security forces to take the lead in protecting their country. Importantly, making security gains last will require a renewed focus on a political solution, both between parties in Afghanistan and regionally; governance reforms; and fostering sustainable economic growth.
"Today is a marking point in the long process of responsiblytransitioning ownership of Iraq back to Iraqis -- a shift that has been madepossible by the sacrifices of America's fighting men and women, along withthose brave Iraqis who have stood up to rebuild their country. While the U.S.continues to provide training and support, the future of Iraq belongs to theIraqis." - NSN Senior Advisor Major General Paul D. Eaton (Retired)
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his trip to Washington with a visit to the Pentagon today, the meeting he held yesterday with President Obama should lay to rest any doubts about the Administration's commitment to Israel. After their meetings, the President and Prime Minister made it clear that this relationship is strong, with Netanyahu using language directly rebuffing Obama's staunchest domestic critics. In the clearest of terms, Netanyahu endorsed Obama's commitment to Israel and praised him for his efforts to enhance Israeli security vis-à-vis Iran and in the Middle East. Obama also reiterated his commitment to Israeli security through the prism of Middle East peace, calling for direct negotiations that will pave the way for a two state solution, a goal that will advance American security interests in the region, secure Israel's long term survival, and meet Palestinian aspirations. While Obama will continue to have domestic critics on his Middle East policy, they should take pause. Not only has his approach to the Middle East and Israel been endorsed by Netanyahu, but his policy to forge a two state solution also remains viable.
Announcing the steps his administration had undertaken to improve America's security following the failed terrorist attack last December, President Obama made it clear that the U.S. would not be ruled by fear.
Not even a year in office, President Obama has put forth a comprehensive foreign policy that pursues a strategy of principled and pragmatic engagement. While both the left and right have found areas to criticize, this approach has both enhanced America’s ability to work with our allies overseas as well as protect Americans at home. And while he has achieved several important accomplishments over the past 10 months, it is Obama’s vision for the future and America’s place in the world that will determine his success in office. It is this vision—the promise of building on our best traditions while elevating American leadership—that was laid out in clear terms this morning during Obama’s Nobel Peace prize ceremony address.
The last few weeks have witnessed significant developments related to Iran. Against this backdrop, The Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement strategy to both ramp up the pressure on and assess progress with Iran by the end of the year has continued to move forward effectively. This was in evidence when 25 countries, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, voted to support censure of Iran at the IAEA for its unwillingness to be fully transparent over its nuclear ambitions. In addition, instability stemming from Iran’s post-election crisis this summer has continued, with protests taking place on a scale not seen since the election itself. . Yet despite this dynamic situation, Congress is moving swiftly to impose unilateral sanctions on the Islamic Republic. While sanctions can serve as a useful diplomatic instrument and congressional pressure can send an important signal that U.S. patience with Iran is limited, moving forward with unilateral sanctions at this time may create more problems than solutions on this thorny issue.