Monday, December 22, 2014

President Obama’s New Strategy – what’s new, will it work?

Afghanistan Mission—On April 21, H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, participated in a panel discussion held at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, entitled “President Obama’s new strategy – What’s new? Will it work?” Ambassador Tanin delivered the keynote address, which focused on the fact that President Obama’s strategy is very open to interpretation, and will need to include follow-through and sustained commitment in order for it to be successful. He warned that if the Taliban thought the international commitment had an end-date they would feel they could out-wait the West the same way the Mujahideen out-lasted the Soviet Union. He also emphasized that success will require patience, but that Afghanistan and the region will be central in the geopolitics of the future, and cannot be ignored. You can read the full text of his address here.
Ambassador Francesc Vendrell, who served as European Union Special Representative in Afghanistan from 2002-2008, and has remained very involved in the region, said he was concerned about the approach that the Obama Administration seemed to be taking. He said he felt there was a division within the Administration between those who wanted to minimize objectives and take a quick exit strategy and those who recognized the necessity of being invested for a longer period. He also is concerned that the “new” strategy does not in fact offer much that is new, and focuses on a military surge rather than the more essential civilian involvement. Ambassador Vendrell also said that the core strategy described by President Obama, to “defeat” al-Qaeda, was extremely vague, and wondered who would get to determine when al-Qaeda had been defeated.
Professor Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, founder and director of the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination and Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School, expressed his view that we are facing a critical time in Afghanistan because the region is under more scrutiny than ever before, we are headed into two critical elections – presidential elections this year and parliamentary elections next year – and the region is full of important and growing powers who will need to be taken into account. He mentioned that China is becoming increasingly involved in Afghanistan – through investments in infrastructure and mining particularly – and that if the United States and NATO fail in Afghanistan, there will be substantial repercussions for the future of international politics. Finally, he pointed out what he said was the 1,100lb gorilla in the room, the economic crisis currently facing the world, and said that there would be inevitable effects on Afghanistan as a result. He predicted that governments who currently give substantial aid to Afghanistan would begin to face more and more pressure from their constituencies to spend that money at home.
The panel also responded to questions from the audience on topics including reconciliation, Iran, governance and rule of law, and the Afghanistan-India relationship.
The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, along with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, have hosted a wide variety of conferences, colloquia, seminars and events on Afghanistan and the region which serve as a valuable source of academic analysis and offer an exchange of ideas between all levels of society in the United States, in Europe, and in Afghanistan and the region. LISD held a review conference on Afghanistan in September 2008 which took place in Bonn, Germany, and a number of related events will occur in the coming months, including a seminar on Afghanistan that will take place in Liechtenstein.

Obama to see Afghan, Pakistan leaders in May

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will meet early next month with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as he presses a new strategy to stabilize the region against rising insurgent violence.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will meet separately with Obama and then have three-way talks during visits to the White House on May 6 and 7, a U.S. official said.

Obama last month unveiled a new war strategy for Afghanistan with the aim of crushing al Qaeda and Taliban militants based there and operating from across the border in Pakistan. Cross-border attacks have caused tensions between the two neighbors.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the planned Washington summit was part of a process set in motion by the administration’s in-depth policy review.

“The president wants to be personally involved … in seeking to find solutions,” Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama headed to Iowa. “The president will reiterate his hopes, his belief of the opportunities but also responsibilities each leader has.”

Since taking office in January, Obama has sought to shift the U.S. military focus from the unpopular war in Iraq to Afghanistan, which he considers the more important front in the fight against Islamic militancy.

Obama has authorized the deployment of 21,000 additional U.S. troops and hundreds of new diplomatic and other civilian officials to Afghanistan.

The U.S. administration also wants to forge closer cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kabul has accused Islamabad of not doing enough to stop militants crossing the border to carry out attacks. But ties have improved under Zardari, whose country is facing its own Islamist insurgency.

At a meeting in Ankara earlier this month hosted by the Turkish government, Karzai and Zardari agreed to boost military and political ties.

Obama will bring the two leaders together again in an apparent effort to coordinate strategy.

U.S.-led forces ousted Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in 2001 after they refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders wanted by Washington for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Taliban attacks have increased in recent years along with the number of foreign troops sent to fight them.

Foreign Minister Spanta Addresses 4th Round of Government Accountability

Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, yesterday delivered an address before the 4th Round of Government Accountability to the Nation. The session was part of an annual review of activities of all Ministries and Government Departments whereby cabinet members and heads of departments brief the public on the work of their Ministries over the course of the year. The first round of accountability week took place in November 2005.

In his address, Foreign Minister Spanta delivered a comprehensive briefing on the activities and achievements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past year. Foreign Minister Spanta stated that since assuming the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he prioritized the following areas of activity:

Afghanistan’s foreign policy, including diplomatic relations and foreign security and economic policy;
Enhancing capacity of officials of the Foreign Ministry; and
Fundamental reform of the Ministry’s framework of activities.
Additionally, Foreign Minister Spanta noted that, among various accomplishments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had consolidated its relations with the broader international community. In that regard, it was said that Afghanistan had expanded both bilateral and multi-lateral relations by establishing diplomatic relations with additional countries and up-grading its participation in various international forums and organizations.

To that effect, he alluded to the following: election of Dr. Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as Vice-Chairman of the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly and his appointment as Chair of the Working Group on Security Council reform; election of Ms. Zohra Rasekh, Director of the Human Rights and Women’s Affairs Dept. at the Foreign Ministry, as an independent expert at the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Afghanistan’s membership in the Board of Governor’s of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); election of Mr. Yahya Maroufi, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Tehran, as Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO); Afghanistan’s assumption of the post of Deputy Chair of the 15th Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and continuation of the Vice-Chairmanship of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the UN.

Foreign Minister Spanta highlighted the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in facilitating Afghanistan’s participation in various international gathering on numerous issues. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the organization of 23 officials visits conducted by His Excellency President Karzai. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for preparation of draft statements, talking points and drafting of official declarations and international agreements, said Foreign Minister Spanta.” The Foreign Ministry undertook the aforementioned measures for official visits of Ministers and Deputy Ministers of other Ministries as well.

Furthermore, Foreign Minister Spanta emphasized the importance of good-governance at all levels of government, including government Ministries. He cited various measures initiated by senior officials at the Ministry aimed at improving governance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Ministers also expressed the commitment of the Ministry’s leadership in promoting official appointments on the basis of merit and combating “a culture of nepotism.”