In the days following President Barack Obama’s inauguration, he has discussed and implemented several plans dealing with the current “War on Terror.” He has ordered the closing of Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, and has vocally supported (with many campaign promises) a pullout from Iraq; one has to wonder, however, what he intends to do about the “forgotten battlefield,” the original War on Terror target of Afghanistan.
An international poll conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in June of 2008 found that 21 of the 24 nations of the nations polled showed a desire for a pullout of Afghanistan; only three, the United States, Britain, and Australia, showed a generally favorable view of keeping troops in place until the situation became fully stabilized.
Speaking only in terms of world strategy, it makes complete sense for United States forces to stay in Afghanistan for the long run, much like South Korea. The United States does not have a stable “home base” to operate from in that region of the world, unlike the Middle East, where the U.S. operates bases in the U.A.E, Qatar, and Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, Turkey to the north, and the island of Cyprus to the west in the Mediterranean Ocean. U.S. forces also formerly had several bases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In that region of South Asia, the U.S. military has very little presence. Support, in fact, has to come from the Middle East, Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or in extreme instances, Guam in the Pacific. Also, the United States does not have territorial right to Diego Garcia, that being owned by the British, with the (unlikely) possibility of a denial-of-use.
If this happens, that would leave only Guam and bases on the Persian Gulf as staging bases for large aircraft, supplies and equipment. Due to rising tensions between India and Pakistan and India and China, a U.S. presence in the area could be helpful if conflict were to break-out in that region, with fast response time and forward operating areas.Strategically, Afghanistan is a near-perfect base of operation for the theater, and I can only hope that President Obama, while perhaps ending sustained war operations in Afghanistan, will keep a U.S. boots-on-the-ground presence to protect interests and provide a stabilizing factor to the area.