President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech: A South Asian Perspective

On June 30th the South Asia Center, Atlantic Council hosted regional experts Walter Andersen, Vanda Felbab-Brown, and Kamran Shafi, to discuss the issues surrounding the drawdown of U.S. and Allied forces from Afghanistan.

Shuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center, moderated the discussion.

Walter Andersen explored the Indian perspective on the issue, focusing on the significance of an Indian presence in Afghanistan and how it affects Pakistan’s calculations. Vanda Felbab-Brown examined the role of Afghanistan Taliban and the likelihood that they would try to fill the political and security void that might be left behind by the troop withdrawal. Kamran Shafi explained the need for Pakistan to rethink its role in Afghanistan, and ramp up its efforts against militant groups at home. There was a consensus about the bleakness of the future, and the need to give the regional partners a more constructive role in the transition process.

President Obama’s speech, delivered June 22nd, 2011, on the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and a total of 33,000 by next summer will have important implications for Afghanistan and South Asia. The drawdown of U.S. forces will trigger reactions from the region that may affect the success of the exit strategy from Afghanistan. But many questions remain about the efficacy of the U.S. strategy and the willingness and ability of the Afghan authorities, Pakistan, and India to help the upcoming transition in Afghanistan.