In the press

Obama troop surge speech received with “solemn silence and polite applause”

INTERNATIONAL PRESS REVIEW: Reaction to Obama’s speech was not overly-enthusiastic at West Point Military Academy where the President spoke for 40-minutes. Many of those present will now be deployed to Afghanistan


Seventy-three West Point graduates have died in battle since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, says the Washington Post. No wonder then the reaction at the military academy was somewhat muted when Obama, as expected, announced a 30,000 strong reinforcement of US troops in Afghanistan.

“Obama's audience extended beyond the hall to include a skeptical American public, reluctant allies abroad, a weak government in Pakistan, and an Afghan population waiting to see whether international forces or the Taliban will win the war,” the paper added.

For the New York Times, the most immediate challenge in this bolstered effort to win the Afghan war is President Karzai himself. “The onetime Western favorite who presides over what is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The graft permeating the Afghan government is so vast that for ordinary Afghans, it has begun to call into question the very legitimacy of Mr. Karzai’s government   and for Americans, the wisdom of fighting and dying to support it.”

The article says more and more American money is now going to by-pass Karzai’s government and go directly to provincial leaders. The focus is increasingly local.
“In the end, training Afghan soldiers and pressuring Afghan officials will succeed only if the American-led war has the support of ordinary Afghans themselves. And it’s among them   in the streets   that the war will ultimately be lost or won.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf
says a military solution alone is not enough in Afghanistan; there needs to be a “political surge”.

He says he had recommended recognizing the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1996 - despite their tough brand of Islam - in the hope of transforming them from within. “Had my strategy been enacted, perhaps Afghanistan would have denied Al Qaeda the safe haven they were given and maybe 9/11 wouldn’t have happened.”

Musharraf says that another golden opportunity was missed after the 2001 invasion. Support for the US invasion was squandered and the majority Pashtuns felt alienated by disproportionate support to Tajiks. 80,000 Tajiks were included in the Afghan National Army, for instance. Musharraf believes this pushed Pashtun support towards the Taliban even though they were not ideological supporters of the Taliban.

Musharraf says the exit strategy cannot be time related and the question must be ‘what effect do we want to create on the ground?”

On the political front, dialogue needs to take place with all groups, including the Taliban, he says. He believes that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can play a key role can play a key role here.

“I have always said, ‘All Talibans are Pashtun, not all Pashtuns are Taliban.’”

Musharaff concludes, “Afghanistan and Pakistan felt abandoned by the West in 1989 despite being central to defeating the Soviet Union…For the sake of regional and world peace, let us not repeat the same mistake again.”

Other stories in today’s international papers:

International Herald Tribune
EU bypassed on the road to Copenhagen

The Daily Mail
Why women live so much longer than men (And, no, it's not because they have an easier life!)

The Daily Mail
Safety in numbers: The starlings having a whale of a time


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