The latest bombing attempt in Times Square sheds light on the fact President Obama has been failing in his foreign policy endeavors. Leave aside the fact we are nowhere closer to Middle East peace talks and our allies feel abandoned. However, our president has failed to even mention Afghanistan lately where roughly 70,000 troops are stationed fighting bravely.
Now, I am not trying to say if the president made another speech the world would be a safer place. Yet, Faisal Shahzad, the accused bomber, being radicalized in Pakistan where hundreds of insurgents are planning to harm western citizens does not garner much attention by President Obama. Is it time for another Cairo speech? It does not seem like that helped the situation.
President Hamid Karzai will be visiting the United States and President Obama today for a critical meeting that will shape the way forward in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region for the next several months. President Karzai has done his best to hedge his bets against possible accusations that is he being propped up by the United States. President Obama has confused the subject since his administration does not seem able to articulate a cogent Afghanistan policy.
It is hard to blame Karzai for making wild accusations against the encroachment from the “invaders.” Let us be clear, he has an exit strategy. Having spent the past 10 months in Afghanistan, I know firsthand of the nefarious activities he and his cronies have perpetuated against the Afghan people. It is no secret he and his family have a home in Dubai, like many of the wealthy from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. If his administration were to crumble or be overthrown by Taliban or other forces, he would be on the first plane out of Kabul.
Karzai faces various threats from insurgents to political rivals. Furthermore, our diplomats do not seem to be on the same page when it comes to criticizing or praising him. President Obama clouded the picture when he stated our forces would begin withdrawing next year. He sees the possibility if NATO troops depart in July 2011 that he will be left to fend for himself. In a scenario like that, no wonder he is fanning the populist rhetoric of the evil United States, despite the fact that close to 100,00 foreign troops are protecting him.
Our president did a quick six-hour stay in Kabul in early April in the dark of night. Obviously, his safety being a major concern he limited his stay to the presidential Palace in Kabul and Bagram Air Field. However, the next day Karzai blasted the United States and then entertained President Ahmadinejad shortly thereafter who continued his mad rants against us. President Obama has not done enough to combat the cronyism of the Karzai administration. Our troops are doing a tremendous job of taking the fight to the enemy, but need strategic support from our commander-in-chief.
Most of the American public do not understand the difference between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban. The thwarted Times Square bombing emanated from the Pakistani side in Waziristan, its central planning hub. Both organizations are loosely connected with many of the associates having tribal connections going back many generations. However, there is no command and control with various terrorist organizations operating in the region. It is literally a salad bowl of bad guys.
In December, President Obama stated that we were continuing the fight in Afghanistan to disrupt the efforts of al-Qaida where they were once welcomed. However, he did not mention the various terrorist networks plotting and planning attacks in the region. I asked an Afghan Intelligence official before I departed whom he was most afraid of. His answer shocked me when he said the Haqqani network. The Haqqanis are a network of terrorists operating in the eastern part of Afghanistan where U.S. forces control, but we still do not have a clear picture of their organizational structure.
If our president does not have the ability to paint the picture of what we face overseas, then it is up to Secretaries Gates and Clinton to speak up about the threats we face. President Obama spent his first year aggressively campaigning for health care reform. He needs to show the same vigor as our enemies who are just as defiant in trying to cause harm to us.
Sergio Rodriguera Jr. is an IT Security Consultant and a former counterterrorism advisor at the Department of Treasury. He served as a Defense Fellow at the Pentagon from 2007 to 2009. Recently, he was Deputy Officer in Charge of the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell and was at ISAF HQ from July 2009 to April 2010.