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President Obama announced a bold and sweeping new strategy in the war in Afghanistan and a more expansive view of the theater of conflict to include Pakistan.
He finally stated what has been an accepted wisdom in intelligence circles for a very long time and a state of denial for too many years under the Bush administration.
That is, that Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself inside the remote, lawless regions of Pakistan and that Al Qaeda is using that safe haven for “actively planning attacks on the United States.”
Obama articulated a bold strategy that will include a military offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a diplomatic offensive around the world to encourage all allies to recognize that Al Qaeda poses a threat to the world, not just the United States.
Obama stressed reconciliation and reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban. Recently, GlobalPost's Jean MacKenzie, our correspondent in Kabul, interviewed two former officials in the Taliban regime who shed unique light on this opening and what the U.S. will need to do to make it successful.
As part of the strategy, Obama announced an additional 4,000 troops and advisers who will focus on training Afghan army and police units to augment the “surge” of 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan in the very first days in office.
Under the Bush administration, Obama said, “resources have been denied (in Afghanistan) because of the war in Iraq. Now that will change.”
He said that an increase in aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan will be a vital piece of the new strategy, “a down payment on our own future.”
But he said that it will come with clear benchmarks for success and a new, robust Inspector General’s office that will investigate the corruption that has in the past prevented aid from getting to the people of Afghanistan.
In what is perhaps the Obama administration’s most bold turn in a new direction is an announcement that they would seek dialogue with elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Recognizing that the Taliban is not a monolithic force, but that there are moderate and potentially reconcilable elements within it as an extraordinarily important development.
President Obama said that the new strategy would seek to emulate some of the successes in Iraq of seeking out the so-called “reconcilables” and trying to bring former insurgents to lay down their arms and come into the political process.
Obama said that the “reconciliation process” would get underway in every province.
The thrust of the new strategy, he said, is to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda.
“That is a cause that could not be more just,” he said.