With Congress's approval, President Barak Obama has made significant replacements and appointments in his national security team. As part of the change, the US's current ambassador in Iraq, Mr. Ryan Crocker will take over Karl Eikanberry's post as new ambassador in Afghanistan. Mr. Crocker had previously served as US's first head of mission and ambassador in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. General David Petraous, the US commander of ISAF forces will give his job to lieutenant General John Allen who is now leading the US forces in Iraq and Petraeus will soon take over his new designation as CIA director. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates will retire and the current CIA Director, Leon Panetta will be the new US Defense Secretary. This should be the biggest cabinet reshuffle during Obama's presidency.
President Obama's decision comes at a critical time when US's domestic situation and foreign relationship, especially with Arab world, has entered a new phase. There could be different speculations about the motives behind the new appointments. However, domestic situation is an influential factor that necessitated the change. President Obama has to face a reelection next year. In order to travel the painstaking reelection path with success, the President needs to demonstrate strong leadership both at home and abroad. Because of vexing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and growing number of death tolls of both US soldiers and civilians, Obama's political and military capability has come under serious question.
The recent waves of political developments, regime changes and demonstrations in Arab world could also be determining factor to President Obama and his national security advisors. The US has heavily invested in some of these countries that are experiencing crisis now; the purpose was to maintain them as US's strategic regional partners. The abrupt changes have confused decision-makers in Washington as the aftermath of many developments are unclear. The US has legitimate reason to keep vigilant eyes on the situation and prepare adaptive measures to protect its long-term interests in the region.
The fate of Afghanistan's agonizing war is another important consideration to President Obama and the US government. There is optimism in Afghan side that the new appointments are designed to help the current Afghan project and provide a more effective leadership for the war. With new security leaders taking their offices, the stormy US-Pak relation is expected to suffer even more difficult moments. There is a common understanding among US's political and military officials that the fate of Afghanistan's war is closely interdependent on genuine cooperation and partnership of Pakistan. Fighting for ten years in Afghanistan, the US soldiers have learned the painful lessons that every time that the Taliban come under military pressure in Afghanistan, they escape to Pakistan to relax and regroup for further offensive against Afghan and international forces. According to analysts, Taliban escape to Pakistan not only to relax but also to receive military training and equipments from Pakistan's army and Al-Qaida networks. The continuation of this situation will not be acceptable for the US government because it will change Afghan war to an endless legend with now gain for the US. Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director once said that the US intelligence community and military officers had not detected any single security threats that did not have connection and root in Afghanistan and Pakistan's borders. In other word, any single security threats to US either in its soil or outside are organized in Afghan-Pak borders.
The next important point is that the US government is under tremendous pressure to change the current situation and military stalemate in Afghanistan. The Taliban's sophisticated guerilla war; targeted ambushes, roadside bombing and suicides have almost diminished the US's military strength and morale to continue the war. On the other hand, the deadline for transfer of security responsibility to Afghan security forces is fast approaching. The US-led coalition forces do not want to leave Afghanistan when there is still chance for Taliban to return. Some political and military experts believe that President Obama and his national security team are seriously considering changing the war strategy from a physical military confrontation to underground intelligence war. There is serious interest in it as spy activities could be both cheaper and more purposeful. This option is intensified after the extraordinary intelligence campaign that led to death of Osama Bin Laden, the US's most wanted terrorist. Experts believe that intelligence war could reduce civilian deaths and will deny Al-Qaida leaders any restful moments to plan high-scale terrorist attacks.
Among all speculations, Afghan people, who have suffered from terrorism more than any nations, have different view. For them, it is yet too early to be optimistic about the new appointments or progress of war in their country. They expect that if the US and international community see any future for Afghanistan, there is serious need to do anything possible to win this war, either through increased military offensives or serious diplomacy.
The war strategy should dramatically change after the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, under the nose [probably under protection] of its military forces. The death of Osama should not be the end of war or end of pressure on Pakistan. Now Pakistan should be seriously asked to surrender Mullah Omar, Hekmatyar and other terrorist leaders and murderers who are surely hidden in Pakistan. On Thursday May 05, 2011, Former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh addressing a rally of several thousand people in Kabul said that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha has been protecting Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
This is a sensitive juncture and turning point in the history of war against terrorism. All resources should be accumulated, concentrated and used to dismantle and defeat Al-Qaida and terrorism. The situation calls on Afghan government to avoid adopting emotional and immature political position, rather, it has to draft effective and active diplomacy to take maximum advantage for its immediate causes. There is not much to say about President Obama's new appointments at this point. Let's wait to observe the coming developments on war against terrorism with new security team.