Countless articles have been written about President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan speech made at West Point. But many of these articles, especially from the main stream media, either downright distorted the speech (claiming, for instance, that Obama called for an exit date and for benchmarks) or missed key points in the speech. Readers of this diary may also want to look at two earlier diaries I wrote that have a line by line analysis of Obama’s speech. Meanwhile, the text of the speech may be found at the New York Times.

Rather than just presenting a rationale for escalation (defective at that because Obama lied when he said that Al Qaeda planned the 9-11 attack from Afghanistan and that country provided the attackers) in Afghanistan and an exit strategy from that country, President Obama opened the door to a future escalation of the war in Pakistan.

Looking at the Obama speech, it is striking that Obama made so many references to Pakistan throughout it. Here are all the references:

After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership…

Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan.

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Pakistan, that nation’s army has gone on its largest offensive in years.

In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.

The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan

Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Third we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We’re in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not only did Obama refer to Pakistan repeatedly, he often coupled Afghanistan with Pakistan. In some sense, this may be because his earlier escalation of the war by sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan in February, 2009, pushed Al Qaeda and some Taliban to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, top military people in the U.S.A. like Gen. Petreus and Gen. Jack Keane have said that Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan.

If one accepts the need for an escalation of the war into Afghanistan that Obama laid out, does this not also mean that he has laid out the basis for a future escalation in Pakistan? In one of the above quotations, for instance, Obama outright says "our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan." After saying that the both the people and governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are threatened, Obama even says this: "And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan… ."

Interestingly, Vice President Joe Biden apparently made this same point, as revealed by Sam Stein over at Huffingtonpost:

Weeks before President Barack Obama officially announced that 30,000 additional troops would be heading to a war in its eighth year, Biden was casting doubt on the wisdom of just such a move. Pointing out that the ratio of U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan compared to Pakistan is 30 to 1 — despite the overwhelming presence of al Qaeda and nuclear weapons in the latter country… .

Far from being a speech–as the mainstream media claim–that sets an exit date from Afghanistan, it did nothing of the kind. Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of State Clinton and other administration figures were already backing away from any date certain in Congressional hearings yesterday. Clinton said that "some troops" would be extracted in July, 2011; some could mean five or six. Secretary of Defense Gates provided even more wiggle room:

"The July 2011 date is the date on which we begin to transfer authority and responsibility to Afghan security forces," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, before adding that "the pace, the size of the drawdown, is going to be determined in a responsible manner based on the conditions that exist at the time."

In short, the much ballyhooed exit date is vague to the point of meaningless, nothing but typical Obama rhetoric that serves as pap to a war weary nation.

This speech, then, not only lays the ground for an escalation in Afghanistan and provides the President and the Democratic Party with cover with a false exit date, it also paves the way for a more extensive war in Pakistan that will likely come after the mid-term elections in 2010. Interesting that the supposed exit date occurs 7 months after those elections (just as Obama’s "health insurance" reforms inexplicably kick in after 2012 and Obama no longer faces voters as the president). In fact, perhaps the extraction of troops from Afghanistan in mid 2011, if anything much happens at all, may only see them shifted to Pakistan which is what happened with thousands of troops that were moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. It’s like a military shell game with the front constantly changing but with each original point of troop insertion retaining U.S. bases and U.S. troops to protect them.

As so often happens with Obama (see health care reform were Obama was really talking about "insurance reform") , he appears to be promising something (an exit strategy and an exit date in Afghanistan) while the wording is so ambiguous it could be interpreted to mean exactly the opposite. With Obama what he says in soaring rhetoric usually IS the exact opposite of what he really wants.

Obama has dropped one combat boot in Afghanistan, he will likely drop the next in Pakistan.

fflambeau

fflambeau

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