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The Real News: Obama's Afghan plan

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Welcome to the Real News Network coming to you from the McClatchy newspaper office in Washington D.C. Last week, President Obama announced his plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here is part of what he had to say. "I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: "To disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, "and to prevent their return to either country in the future. "That's the goal that must be achieved. "That is a cause that could not be more just. "And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same. "We will defeat you." Joining us to assess the Obama plans is Roy Gutman. He's McClatchy Newspaper's foreign editor. He was the diplomatic correspondent for Newsweek. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 1993 Bosnia-Herzegovina war. His recent book about Afghanistan in the 1990s is called "How We Missed the Story." He joins us today to discuss this Obama plan. Thank you. Nice to be here. So how do you assess the plan? Does he have a plan that's going to make some sense of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Well, we don't know everything about it because it's an outline at this stage. But it's got the merit of being the first plan of its kind. Throughout modern history, in fact, even though the United States has been very involved in Afghanistan going back to 1979, they never really had a strategy. I think they have the makings of one now. Well certainly there was one strategy which to a large extent is the roots of the problem, which was the Brozinsky strategy of sucking the Russians into a war, and then walk. I guess it's part of a plan for the U.S. to have then walk away and leave Afghanistan in civil war which leads to the Taliban and Al Qaeda and so on. But in terms of a strategy in any recent sense of the word I guess is what you're talking about. And that's the problem that you just outlined. The U.S. approach that started in the Carter administration and was carried on by Ronald Reagan and blown into a huge program was not a strategy at all. It was a tactical attempt to tie down the Russians and exhaust them. But it had no--there was no plan with regard to Afghanistan and its future, and so the walking away from Afghanistan I don't think that was actually planned. It's just that they had no plan. And the fact is that every war, however small, if you want it to end it has to end in a political settlement. And if the United States is involved in stoking the war it should stick around and make sure that it helps achieve a settlement. Isn't part of the problem that Afghanistan, despite the rhetoric, has always seen either through a geopolitical strategic prism or a military prism? The issue of the welfare of the Afghan people and the actual development of Afghan society gets a little bit if lip service once in a while. President Bush, after the 2001 attack or invasion of Afghanistan talked about something like a Marshal Plan, I think once or twice. And then the phrase disappeared and then we certainly saw nothing like a Marshal Plan. Well that's the problem. In general, people treat Afghanistan as a platform for attacking other problems and they forget that there's 24 million people there. It's a real country. Real people. It's landlocked. It's poor, but it's in the heart of Asia. And it's surrounded by countries that are not an awful lot more stable than it is. If you encourage the use of Afghanistan for attacking either the Russians, or in the recent case, the Al Qaeda people and the militants who fled, the Taliban who fled, into Pakistan, but you ignore Afghanistan itself - if you don't put it at the center of things - then things are going to get worse. Aren't you concerned that President Obama is doing exactly the same thing? And let me play you a couple of clips that illustrate what I'm talking about. Because perhaps President Bush wasn't the only one who raised the flag of a Marshal Plan and then kind of forgot about it. Here's the two clips.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 56 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 67
Posted by: sgentile on May 29, 2010

Roy Gutman, Foreign Editor of McClatchy Newspapers says Obama's announcement last week of his strategy in Afghanistan is unprecedented and is a "very good start." He says the problem has been that, "the United States has not had an integrated strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan."

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