July 21, 2008

Afghan Observer Calls Obama Visits Symbolic, Part of Election Campaign

Text of report by state-run Iranian radio external service from Mashhad on 20 July

[Presenter] As part of his presidential campaign, US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday [19 July] and on Sunday had a meeting with the Afghan president in Kabul. Barack Obama has criticized US President George Bush for his failure in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. As a means to gain more popularity ahead of the elections, Obama has stressed a shift of priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan and has called Afghanistan the frontline in the battle against terrorism. He also criticized Pakistan and has warned that if Pakistan fails to cooperate in curbing terrorism, the White House will enter into a new war with militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Obama has been critical of Karzai's government, saying that the Afghan government has not been able to build its war-torn country. He has called the Afghan war tough and apart from terrorism he described narcotics production and mismanagement in the government departments as other challenges ahead of the Afghan government and the world community. On the other hand, the Republicans have spoken highly of Karzai's efforts and called him a brave man.

According to some experts, Afghanistan has now become part of the election campaign for the two presidents. One tries to justify the presence of the US troops in Afghanistan, while the other one tries to give high importance to this war, stressing the deployment of additional troops to this country. To provide you with further details on this, my colleague has arranged an interview with Afghan observer and former diplomat Sayed Ishaq Delju, who calls the visit symbolic and part of the election campaign.

[Observer] The foreign policies of the presidential candidates, in particular in the USA as the supreme power in the world, are highly important for the people. In fact, most Americans judge their new president from his foreign policies and they want to see a change in the entire structure. Now the hottest topic for the world, in particular for the US government, is the fight against terrorism and the Americans want to see how this war is going and how the huge resources have been utilized. Most of the Americans have come to know that the war against terrorism in Afghanistan had a good start but it will not have a good end. On the other hand, the war in Iraq was a mistake which resulted in the killing of thousands of innocents.

Now the US Democrat presidential candidate is trying to introduce changes ahead of the elections. He comes up with good tidings to the Americans, saying that there is only one concentration point and that is Afghanistan. Therefore, as part of the campaign he came to Afghanistan and outlined new policies in case he wins the elections. I consider the visit symbolic with no substantial outcomes for the Afghans. This news went through the world media and gave him more fame and popularity among the Americans.

[Presenter] In your opinion, if Barack Obama wins the elections, will he implement his ambitious plans in Afghanistan?

[Observer] I do not think so. The entire policy of the US government is to keep the situation in Afghanistan volatile so that the US can extend its military presence in this country. The US policy towards Iraq is clear evidence for what I say. Now that the US has to pull out from Iraq, it is trying to sign a strategic plan with the government of Iraq on the set up of permanent bases in this country. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the US will remain not for years but for decades, either to keep the situation as it is or to convince a puppet government to agree with its permanent military base in this country. Therefore, as I indicated earlier, all the exaggerations by the US candidate are part of the campaign and he is trying to win more popularity to get more votes.

Originally published by Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran External Service, Mashhad in Dari 1330 20 Jul 08.

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