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Friday, November 28, 2008

Duck dropping

On Tuesday, November 18, I posted "Obama's exit strategy?" at the Duck of Minerva group blog.

The piece speculates that the President-elect might be able to put an end to the so-called "war on terrorism" by withdrawing from Iraq and turning US attention back to Afghanistan (and Pakistan).

Last night, at a couple of gatherings with family and friends, some people were speculating that Afghanistan could become Obama's Vietnam -- or Iraq. This blogger at the Monthly Review made this precise charge last summer.

Since I posted that piece 10 days ago, Iraq's Parliament has approved a Status of Forces Agreement with the US establishing a formal timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. American troops must be out of Iraq by December 2011. To win Sunni support for the SOFA, the Iraq government promised to hold a public referendum on the deal no later than July.

President Bush used to dismiss the idea of a timetable, but has now negotiated one! As Spencer Ackerman explains, if Iraq rejects the SOFA in the public referendum, the US would have to withdraw from Iraq even sooner -- potentially by May 2010 (roughly 16 months after Barack Obama is inaugurated as US President).

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has called for a timetable for international troops withdrawal. Failing to achieve that, Karzai dropped another hint that conflict could end via negotiation:
"If there is no deadline, we have the right to find another solution for peace and security, which is negotiations," Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement from his office.
Some prominent American analysts are also calling for negotiated settlement -- and the Obama team is reportedly NOT planning to borrow from the Bush Iraq strategy:
The incoming Obama administration plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan -- including possible talks with Iran -- and looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban, according to Obama national security advisers.
Finally, I'm expecting to be pleased this week when Obama announces key members of his foreign policy team.

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