Tags: obama | afghanistan

Expert: Obama's Afghan Surge Could End in Quagmire

Monday, 23 Feb 2009 09:00 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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Global terrorism expert Walid Phares, a professor and commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, tells Newsmax TV that Pakistan’s recent surrender of the strategic Swat Valley region to the Taliban is regrettable, but had to be done because the secular Pakistan Peoples Party doesn’t know how to deal with the extremists.

“They had to do it,” says Phares, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This government in Pakistan, which is a democratically elected government, has inherited a very difficult situation. It has inherited a whole region, the northwestern part of Pakistan, which is filled with Taliban.”

[Editor's Note: Watch Dr. Walid Phares discuss the war on terror - Go Here Now]

Phares, who notes former Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by jihadist members of the Taliban in the region, says, “The most important point here is that this government realize that with its own military forces, it is not able, and cannot at this point in time, take it by military force.

“If this move [to surrender the region] is to secure a cease-fire until the government reorganizes itself and coordinates with the United States and the Afghani government [prior to] a counter-attack in the next year or even earlier, then that probably was the right thing to do, although regrettable. If the case was that they begin to disengage by remitting to the Taliban an area in Swat Valley, then Pakistan is going to be in a very difficult situation.”

Phares says President Barack Obama’s decision to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan could lead to a Vietnam-like quagmire, as some are suggesting.

“If we send soldiers to Afghanistan to fight for a while, and then reach a level where we cannot achieve more on the political and diplomatic level — if we begin to negotiate with a number of Taliban, bringing them to the government without supporting democratic forces in Afghanistan — then that would look more like Vietnam,” Phares explains.

“I hope this move to send two divisions to Afghanistan — which is the result of our commanders on the ground requesting this and Gen. [David] Petraeus requesting this — will be part of a much wider diplomatic, political and even economic initiative that would allow the Afghani people to take the fight. It’s important they use what we are offering so that they could continue in this war against the Taliban.”

Phares also thinks the question of whether Osama bin-Laden is very theoretical.

“I look at it from this perspective: It couldn’t be possible that bin-Laden would vanish for many years without the council of al-Qaida, or those warring lords of al-Qaida, claiming leadership. I think most likely — and I may be wrong — but most likely he is still around. He’s not efficient; he has been secluded, and he has been kept. And he is not actually in good health condition because he’s not appearing in front of videotape. He’s always [providing] audiotapes.”

Phares says the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, which houses many alleged terrorists and prisoners of the war on terror would create “an awkward situation.” In some cases, released detainees have returned to acts of terrorism.

Phares says when Obama was a candidate for president, he committed, for a variety of reasons, that Guantanamo be shut down based on experts who told him the Arab and Muslim world as a whole was very upset with it.

“That assessment wasn’t true, because the Arab world is not one,” Phares says. “You have jihadists who want to free their comrades in Guantanamo; you have those who are anti-American, who will criticize the United States no matter what; and then you have those who are under the strength of the jihadists around the Arab and Muslim world. But, let’s go beyond that to what is even more serious. It is not at the end of the day the fate of where those jihadists are going to be released — which is today’s debate; it’s tomorrow’s debate.”

Phares says upping the troop count by adding two more divisions to Afghanistan to engage the Taliban will only lead to another wave of prisoners of war.

“If we shut down Guantanamo, how are we going to process the next wave, the future waves of prisoners of war, unless the U.S. won’t take prisoners, and that would be against international law.”

Phares says Obama’s pledge to talk to Iran, which hasn’t exactly returned the olive branch, probably won’t do any good.

“The talking thing is not important to me,” he tells Newsmax. “You can sit down, talk, send diplomats. But, at the end of the day, it’s your policy in regard to Iran that matters. Do you want them to stop that nuclear arming project?”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and “all Iranian leaders have pledged to the destruction of the state of Israel, but also to stretch their dominance in the region against most of America’s moderate allies,” Phares says. “So it’s not just about Israel, it’s about the whole region. As we have been seeing over the past weeks and months, the Iranian leadership is planning, and has already developed, intercontinental capacity. So we are talking about a very serious Iran armed with weapons.”

Phares says talking with Iran accompanied with real policies on the ground is the best approach.

“I believe we should be talking to the Iranian people, encouraging Iranian democratic opposition to put pressure on the government. That would be the serious talking.”

Phares hopes the Obama administration can maintain the Bush administration’s record of preventing any more terrorism attacks on our homeland since 9/11, but says “all is in the issue of preventing.

“That’s a big, big word: preventing, meaning acting. It means also sometimes acting before they act, because if we act after they act, that’s not preventing. Will the Obama administration continue to consider the jihadist movement as a whole, not just when they arm themselves, but when they are indoctrinated by Wahabi thinking, by petro dollars coming from the region?” Phares asks.

“If the Obama administration will make sure this will stop, then yes, they would be stretching, if you wish, the Bush policies. But if they want to let go of the policy that deals with the Wahabi doctrine, then we will be in trouble.”

[Editor's Note: Watch Dr. Walid Phares discuss the war on terror - Go Here Now]

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