(MENAFN - Daily Outlook Afghanistan) Barack Obamasucceeded George William Bush as the 44th President of the United States ofAmerica on 20 January 2009. It marked verily a revolution, a culmination of along fight of the black (Afro-American) population for equality and humanrights. Obama expressed his determination to bring about a qualitative changein internal and external policy which has created an atmosphere of hope andoptimism all over the world. In his inaugural speech he has eloquently spokenof his ardent desire to unite US bridging different segments of US populationand unite humanity transcending national barriers. The US, he said, will be friend of everycountry in the world. Generallypolitical campaigns speeches are bound to conflict with the ground realitieswhen one sits in position of power. As opposed to Bush Administration earlierBarack Obama has committed himself to base US conduct in global affairs onvalues which have been beacon light to be emulated by the world effectivelydemonstrated over the years and more recently by a change in Eastern Europeafter the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, on assuming the office, Obamaremained as steadfast as any other leader to relentlessly confront violentextremists who pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the samething that people of all faiths reject the killing of innocent men, women andchildren.
Terror policy ofGeorge W. Bush
Earlier too duringthe Presidentship of George William Bush security of the country and itscitizens remained on the top of Bush's agenda. At the close of his regime muchof the heat of the war on terrorism was turned on Pakistan after the USidentified Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West FrontierProvince (NWFP) as a safe heaven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgent. Accordingto the NewYork Times, President Bush was believed to have given confidentialorders in July 2008 allowing US air strikes and ground operations to be carriedout against militant sanctuaries within Pakistan without the prior knowledge orapproval of Islamabad. The first of such attempts by US troops to launch aground attack in September 2008 was met with stiff resistance and reportedlythwarted by Pakistan paramilitary soldiers. These attacks not only caused massive civilian deaths, but were inflagrant violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. A news report in TheNews stated that of the nearly sixty cross-border American drone attacksbetween January 2006 and April 2009; only 10 managed to hit their actualtargets, leading to the death of 14 Al-Qaeda leaders and perishing 687 innocentPakistani civilians. Despite the visible opposition to their use, drone strikesseemed to be a favourite with the Americans as they claim that these attackshave delivered significant body blows to the Al-Qaeda leadership. Not onlythat, George William Bush, in his final farewell speech from the White House on15 January 2009, defending his administration's eight–year long period of warmongering, said that the war on terror, the ideological pivot of hisadministration, must carry on. The main thrust of his speech was to defend histenure as president and exhort the new administration to carry forward theglobal war against terror that his government had launched in the aftermath ofthe World Trade Centre attacks in 2001.
Terror policy ofBarack Obama
At the time BarackObama took over as the president of USA the focus of the war on terror has cometo rest firmly on Pakistan which is seen to have become a sanctuary forAl-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. A major reason for the Taliban's growingstrength has been its ability to escape across the Afghanistan–Pakistan borderinto the safety of the latter's tribal regions and target the US and NATOforces from these areas. In fact Pakistan continues to remain clearly both partof the problem and the solution to the threat of terrorism facing the UnitedStates. Indeed the 9/11 Commission had more or less highlighted Pakistan's deepinvolvement with international terrorism and recommended a long–term UScommitment to provide comprehensive support to Pakistan. A fractured Pakistanthat is nuclear–armed is appropriately termed by Western scholars as the 'mostdangerous place in the world. In the circumstances US officials have begun toacknowledge the importance of Pakistan pursuing more consistentcounterterrorism policies, rather than relying on its past tactics of fightingsome terrorists, while supporting others.
On the other hand,the year 2009 also witnessed a surfacing of the debate within the USadministration with measures adopted thereof, to undo the assault unleashed onthe international human rights framework during George Bush's presidency. Asthe war on terror entered its eight year, it is confronted with severalchallenges. Robert Gates, Secretary ofDefence, is reported to have told the Senate Armed Services Committee thatcivilian casualties caused by US air strikes were during the US enormous harm.‘If Afghans come to see us as part of their problem, not as part of theirsolution, then we are lost. With anti–American sentiment already on the rise,civilian deaths will only deepen the antagonism. Thus the primary challenge forthe US administration was to target Taliban, without causing concomitantcivilian casualties. Perhaps it was in this background that president Obamacandidly admitted in his Cairo speech that we meet at a time of great tensionbetween the United States and the Muslims around the world but assured theMuslims that he sought a new beginning based on mutual interest and one basedupon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be incompetition. In the situation we can easily expect a change in Americanbehaviour/policy during the Barack Obama Administration.
Marked shift interror policy
The new President ofthe United States of America made a significant policy shift in the war againstterror. It was in respect of the overwhelming use of military power and war.This was exhibited in full measure in the shock and awe attacks on Afghanistanand Iraq. Perhaps Bush and his close allies in policy-making Vice PresidentDick Cheney and the former Defence Secretary Rummsfield intended to do the samein case of Iran and Syria. But US was soembroiled in Iraq that they had no opportunity to actually implement thethreats extended to both these countries. Therefore, Barack Obama distancedhimself from using the term–global war on terror' or ‘long war' cutting theseout from the country's military lexicon, he chose instead to use the phrase'overseas contingency operation. However, use of another term for global waron terrorism does not make Obama's policy for a clean break from that of hispredecessor's. In fact America's military engagement in the region onlypromises to become deeper and wider. Despite his orders to shut Guantanamo Bayand ban torture, Obama categorically denied any plans to close down the BagramTheater Internment Facility in Afghanistan, seeking instead to invest $60million to expand the detention facility to accommodate double its presentcapacity of about 600 inmates. This, skeptics point out is just one of theseveral similarities that the Obama Administration shares with its precedingBush Administration, in that it endorses the continuation of the programme ofextraordinary rendition, indefinite detention of terror suspects without trial,and an openness to military commission trials.
In principle too, theview which extends the boundaries of the conflict to take in Al-Qaeda'soperations around the world, has essentially been maintained by the ObamaAdministration and is a source of tension between the United States andEurope. According to current StateDepartment Legal Advisor Harold, Koh, ‘whether a particular individual will betargeted in a particular local will depend upon considerations specific to eachcase, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereigntyof the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those statesto suppress the threat the target poses. The United States believed that its right to use armed force inself-defence in response to 9/11 extends to strikes against Al-Qaeda operativeson Pakistani territory, when Pakistani forces were incapable of reachingterrorists, since it has been conducting predator drone strikes under thosevery conditions.
In March 2009 infederal court while filing in the detention context, the Obama Administrationproposed a flexible standard for the substantive extent of its law of warauthority in its armed conflict with Al-Qaeda and its allies.. Falling underthe asserted detention authority were persons ‘who were part of' or who‘provided substantial support' to ‘Al-Qaeda or Taliban forces and associatedforces' that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or itscoalition partners a standard similar to that used by the BushAdministration. In a further statementthe State Department's Legal Adviser Koh explained that the United Statesregards its legal authorities to include ‘lethal force, to defend itself,including by targeting persons such as high-level Al-Qaeda leaders who areplanning attacks. Thus, the new administration made no compromise on country'ssecurity.