Monday, March 16, 2015

Has the Islamic State Forced a Change in Obama Policy in Syria and Afghanistan?

The weekend brought two bits of news/trial-balloons that indicate that the reality of the present situation is causing the ideological desire to decouple being put under critique inside the Obama Administration's lifelines.

First in Syria;
Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he still believed it was important to achieve a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Syria and that the negotiations should involve President Bashar al-Assad.

“We are working very hard with other interested parties to see if we can reignite a diplomatic outcome,” Mr. Kerry said on the CBS show “Face the Nation.”

“We have to negotiate in the end,” Mr. Kerry added.
Unless Kerry is off the reservation, that is a clear signal that the neo-realists in the administration - what few there are left - are on the accent. That is a good thing.

The Islamic State is by far the greatest threat in the area. Assad is the only power in Syria that can defeat the Islamic State in the balance of that nation's territory. Ironically, Assad is also the only power in that area is even close to respecting minority rights, women's rights, and generally can be worked with in a 21st context. Assad is not a "good guy" - not  by a long shot - but he is the least horrible option in the area unless the United States wants to deploy 200,000 of its military and lose thousands dead.

No, I didn't think so.

We can effectively forget red-lines and "Assad must go" talk. Get rid of the Islamic State first, then we can have the luxury of a vanity based foreign policy.

Next to Afghanistan; second thoughts at the last minute.
The United States has abandoned plans to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year's end, the Associated Press reported on Saturday, but a senior U.S. official told Reuters no decision has been made.

Many of the 9,800 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan would probably remain well into next year, although no final decision on numbers had been made yet, AP reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

President Barack Obama probably will use a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this month to announce the new withdrawal timeline, AP said.
This may just be a delay of the inevitable, like the shift of the IRQ withdraw from the original date to the right a few years to placate those - who were right - that stated a zero-option was too risky. In the end they lost, but at least delayed the rise of the Islamic state by a couple of years.

Seeing Iran now fighting well inside Iraq, perhaps the Administration sees this truth; Iran of 2015 will not let the Shia Hazara in Afghanistan be slaughtered wholesale again if Afghanistan falls apart. 

If there is a vacuum following a USA zero-option, they will move in to Herat and through the center of the country to the Hazara heartland to defend their co-coreligionists and culturally aligned but Sunni western Afghanistan leaders.

I do think that President Obama wants a zero-option in AFG before he leaves office; perhaps he has see in IRQ the truth that though ideologically correct, it may not be realistic. Maybe, if we are a little lucky and a little more smart ... we may manage to avoid catastrophe in AFG, but more cards need to come out of the deck.

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