Swoop: Washington’s World: March 19th – 25th, 2012 – The Afghan Syndrom

Swoop: Washington’s World: March 19th – 25th, 2012 – The Afghan Syndrom
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Swoop: “Top US policy makers are coming to grips with the realization that the assumptions on which the ISAF’s exit from Afghanistan were based are unlikely to be fulfilled. Pentagon contacts tell us that behind Defense Secretary Panetta’s hurried visit to the country following the killings of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier lies a deep debate in Washington about the timelines of the mission.

Officials had hoped that at the forthcoming May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago it would be possible to announce a credible strategy for the Afghan endgame. They are now increasingly gloomy that this will not be possible and that, instead, an accelerated withdrawal will take place, with few guarantees of continuing stability inside Afghanistan. One senior Pentagon officer put it to us this way: “We are revisiting the Soviet nightmare.”

For President Obama, the Afghanistan confusion seems unlikely to damage him politically. With the Republican presidential candidates also calling for expedited withdrawal, Afghanistan does not appear likely to feature as a controversial election issue – at least at this juncture.

This is not true of Iran. Here, Obama’s assertion in an op-ed article in the Washington Post co-authored with British Prime Minister Cameron that “there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution” meets strong criticism from most Republicans. White House officials know that unless renewed talks with Tehran bear rapid progress the pressure for military action will see a dramatic rise. The Administration continues believe that war can be avoided, but tensions are certain to increase over the summer.

Should Obama decide that military action is needed, we are told by White House contacts that the US will seek to assemble a broad international agreement for this.

An active schedule also lies ahead in Asia. Relations with China are under renewed strain following the US action in the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s near monopoly of rare earths minerals.

However, the US is looking for Chinese support at the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, to which Obama will be traveling. With North Korea conducting new missile tests, Administration officials are anxious to avoid a recurrent crisis on the Korean peninsular. They face an awkward decision on whether to renew food aid to Pyongyang.”

Source: The Swoop / Videos Selected by Cap Falcon

Photo Credits: Air-assault mission in Paktika province By The U.S. Army / FlickR

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Paratroopers from 3rd Platoon, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division prepare to load a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter in the Bermel District of the Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, Oct. 13, during an air-assault mission to detain a known militant. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Andrya Hill, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)