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US foreign policy

By George Friedman

Reproduced with permission of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (
The United States apparently has reached the point where it must either accept that Iran will develop nuclear weapons at some point if it wishes, or take military action to prevent this. There is a third strategy, however: Washington can seek to redefine the Iranian question.

As we have no idea what leaders on either side are thinking, exploring this represents an exercise in geopolitical theory. Let's begin with the two apparent stark choices.
Diplomacy vs. the Military Option

The diplomatic approach consists of creating a broad coalition prepared to impose what have been called crippling sanctions on Iran. Effective sanctions must be so painful that they compel the target to change its behavior. In Tehran's case, this could only consist of blocking Iran's imports of gasoline. Iran imports 35 percent of the gasoline it consumes. It is not clear that a gasoline embargo would be crippling, but it is the only embargo that might work. All other forms of sanctions against Iran would be mere gestures designed to give the impression that something is being done.

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The UK Defence Forum has just published a study by Patrick Nopens entitled the impact of climate change on the geopolitics of the Arctic.
( – in members' area, password protected).

Here's the introduction.

Climate change will cause major physical, ecological, economic, social, and geopolitical adjustment. The Arctic, more specifically, is undergoing some of the most rapid and drastic climate change on earth. This is leading to a new interest in the region, not only by the Arctic states, but also by other major powers.

Even though it was the shortest route for intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, and the main base of the Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War, until recently, the Arctic remained a geopolitical backwater. The relative lack of interest in the Arctic did not prevent conflicts of interest, but these did not lead to major tensions.


By Professor Julian Lindley-French

The first few years of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) engagement were marred by failures at the strategic level. Lack of consensus over what was achievable was compounded by a lack of strategy and cohesion. A US administration distracted by Iraq and much of Europe lost in the Euro world compounded a sense of lost opportunity.

However, with the arrival of the Obama administration and more specifically the Afghanistan and Pakistan Strategy, new optimism abounds. Taken together with forthcoming elections in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Army offensive in the Swat Valley and surroundings, a new beginning has been afforded the Coalition. Building on the base provided by the sacrifice of Coalition Armed Forces the next two years will be critical if the Afghanistan/ Pakistan region is to be denied those who could and would do Britain and its partners great harm.

The US Comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan has five main elements: establishing an attainable objective; a regional approach; building capacity and more training; using all elements of national power; and bringing new international elements to the effort.

It is worth re-stating why British forces are in Afghanistan, the vital and important nature of the work they are doing there and how 'success' is going to be crafted. The rationale for the mission is undeniable; for the first time in history terrorists and criminals have global reach and are able and willing to use ungoverned spaces and huge illicit flows of capital to seek access to ageing but massively destructive weaponry and/ or to organise attacks not only upon the West, but all the many states in the Middle East upon which Britain depends for vast amounts of energy.

Make no mistake, Britain is engaged in a strategic struggle with terror, the outcome of which will shape British strategic credibility in all security areas for a generation to come. Afghanistan is thus about Britain's strategic credibility, both at home and abroad. For if London is unable to protect the British home base against such threats, it will be unable to project security elsewhere.

The UK strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is based on several guiding principles: an international approach; a regional approach; a joint civil-military approach; a better co-ordinated approach; a long-term approach calling for the respect for sovereignty and local values with respect for international standards with the demand for a hard-headed approach. Britain is offering a further £665 million of aid and development to Pakistan over the 2009-2013 period and £510 million, over the same period, to Afghanistan.

Southern Afghanistan is the centre of gravity of the struggle in a war that bestrides the Afghan- Pakistan border. 'Success' therein is dependent on six interlocking elements; destruction of the will and structure of the enemy, a plan worthy of the name, a counternarcotics plan embedded in regional economic development, de-Westernisation of the mission together with a regional political strategy, and both Afghan and Pakistani Governments gripped of the seriousness of the moment and prepared to confront inner contradictions as much as external threats. Above all, an agreed definition of what actually would constitute success – an Afghan state that shares the same attributes as its immediate neighbours to the north, the fellow 'stans' most of whom (with the possible exception of Uzbekistan) share basic but robust systems of government with a 'democratic' process of sorts that places stability at the top of the political agenda. Why? Because Afghanistan is Afghanistan and the West went there to deny that space to the likes of Al Qaeda.

Destruction of the enemy: The new US administration is rightly increasing the effort along the lines of Taliban communication in south and east Afghanistan. Moreover, as part of its new Regional Strategy it is working with the Pakistani Government and Armed Forces to break the safe havens around Quetta and Peshawar, as well as flush out the foreign fighters from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). However, destroying the Taliban must be balanced with the aim of transforming the Taliban, they are after all part of the Pashtun landscape. That will require the political reconciliation central to the Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy to bring all but the hard core back into mainstream Afghan and Pakistani political processes. This in turn will require breaking the link between drugs money and the insurgency that will necessarily be linked to returning land rights to many tier two Taliban.

The exact number of Taliban and foreign fighters in Afghanistan is complex. The Taliban can field up to 10,000 fighters but only 2,000 to 3,000 are highly motivated, full-time insurgents. The rest are part-time fighters, young afghan men who have been alienated by government corruption and unemployment, often angry at civilian deaths caused by American bombing raids, or are simply paid. Some 5-10 per cent of full-time insurgents are believed to be foreigners: Arabs, Chechens, Uighurs (Western China), Uzbeks and Russians from the Siberian region.

In other words, political reconciliation will cost money and must run in parallel with the maintenance of military pressure. Here the likes of Saudi Arabia can be of significant help in reducing the funding that flows from Saudi Arabia to the Taliban and the foreign fighters and which fuels radical teaching in the Madrassas in the NWFP.

A Plan

ISAF has only had a strategic campaign plan worthy of the name since 2008. Campaign plans are not the be all and end all of success because much of the work by necessity is about local relationships. However, with the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in place, the appointment of counterinsurgency specialist General David Petraeus to lead CENTCOM and General Stanley McCrystal to lead ISAF, and given a reasonable definition of success and a proper grip of strategic communications both at home and abroad, a new realism abounds.

The US has ordered the deployment of an additional 21,000 troops to the afghan theatre, while US troop strength in Afghanistan should hit 68,000 by late 2009. There are an additional 33,000 allied troops under US and NATO commands with afghan security forces planned to reach 232,000 by 2012.

That realism must itself be founded on three basic realities. First, the Afghan people are the critical ground and General McCrystal has made reducing their casualties and improving life quality a priority. Second, the three-phase strategy identifies end-2011 as the moment when Afghan civil primacy must come to the fore with the security effort having been by and large successful. Third, the new Afghan Government must begin to fulfil its side of the Afghan National Development Strategy. Above all, the provincial reconstruction teams need to become much more efficient in delivering development across the country that is relevant to the needs of the people, measurable and sustainable. Only then will Afghans stop sitting on the political fence between support for the Coalition and fear of the Taliban.

A Counter narcotics strategy embedded in Development

Some 85 per cent of the population of Regional Command South are dependent on agriculture and much of that in turn is poppy. The insurgency is funded to a very significant extent by the fruits of the crop. Breaking those links will require a proper investment in alternatives for the Afghan people.

A mark of the problem is apparent in the gap that exists between the stated aid sent by the

British Government for Helmand and the actual amount that reaches the province – 10 per cent.

Moreover, while sustained and effective substitution crops will be essential to guarantee incomes, other steps must be taken.

These will include: breaking the hold Narco-Khans have over farmers through loans; improving the daily access to power supplies; the Afghan Government removing said individuals from Government; and, above all, a regional economic strategy to embed the future Afghan economy in its wider region. Indeed, the Afghan National Development Strategy only makes real sense when seen from the perspective of wider regional development.

The Afghan National Police force (ANP) will total 82,000 personnel. The ANP can only cover 50 per cent of police districts at present due to lack of available personnel. There are 365 police districts with the need for at least ten officers per district. The Afghan Government claims that there are now 40,000 police officers on the ANP payroll. The US checked these figures and confirmed that some 32,000 (80 per cent) can be accounted for. ANP casualties are 20-times higher than ANA. 3,000 ANP are planned for RC south.


Too much of the narrative surrounding the ISAF mission has been about NATO in Asia. In fact, NATO is only an agent for a UN-sanctioned mission agreed by UN Security Council resolution. Two political initiatives are underway to ease that problem.

First, there is a strong push for a stronger UN role focused on the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Thus far a very cautious UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon has been unwilling to give the UN agencies on the ground the support needed to lead the governance and development tracks vital to mission success. This task has been passed on to overstretched Coalition Armed Forces, which reinforce an impression of NATO versus the Taliban rather than the international community engaging extremism. Of course, a key element of de-Westernisation will be the enhanced role Afghans themselves must play in the years to come.

Good work has been done to enhance the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces, particularly the Army, but much more needs to be done. The establishment of a functioning and reasonably functioning civil service is a vital pre-requisite for functioning governance. Sadly, the Soviets destroyed much of the Afghan middle class in the 1980s and many of Afghanistan's best and brightest remain outside the country.

The regional strategy

The Obama administration recognised early into its term of office that any political reconciliation strategy in Afghanistan must include a wider regional strategy aimed at solving the one nation (Pashtun), two state (Afghanistan and Pakistan) problem and thus separating those issues from Al Qaeda-inspired Jihadism.

For that reason President Obama appointed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to lead the wider regional effort. The effort is primarily focused on strengthening Pakistani state institutions, particularly in the tribal lands of the NWFP, not least the Pakistani Army – the effectiveness of which is vital for Pakistan's future and Coalition strategy.

However, there is a wider agenda. For example, one problem faced by the Coalition is the deleterious effect of the conflict between Pakistan and India over Jammu-Kashmir. Unable to concentrate on both the Indians and the NWFP, the Pakistanis have tended to play down threats from the latter, while India has traditionally seen instability in southern Afghanistan as a way to keep the Pakistani military off balance.

Holbrooke has already made significant progress with British support to ease those tensions. Importantly, a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan is being formed to include all those with a stake in regional security – NATO allies and partners, Central Asian states, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Russia and China.

"The cornerstone of this strategy... is that it's a regional approach. And for the first time, we will treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but as one challenge in one region. Our strategy focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and this is normal, because it's a newer problem. And this calls for more significant increases in US and international support, both economic and military, linked to performance against terror."

General James l Jones, US national security advisor, 27 March, 2009

Originally Published by Newsdesk Communications in partnership with the British Army.

The articles that make up this publication have been submitted by a wide selection of authors, many of whom are not members of the British Army. The views are their own. I have encouraged them to submit opinions and ideas which may run contrary to those of the Army, in order to stimulate and broaden debate.

Chris Donnelly, Editor


How to Evaluate the Effectiveness and Credibility of a Defining Test of Obama's Leadership - By Anthony H. Cordesman

President Obama must now make a decision that will define his presidency. President Obama will have to take personal responsibility for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, betting his historical reputation and second term on the outcome.

At the same time, far more is at stake than the President's reputation. Once the President's choices are put into action it is unlikely that events will offer another chance to reinvent the US approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation is too critical, the need for action too critical, and support for the war too uncertain.

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By George Friedman

Making sense of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy at this moment is difficult. Not only is it a work in progress, but the pending decisions he has to make -- on Iran, Afghanistan and Russia -- tend to obscure underlying strategy. It is easy to confuse inaction with a lack of strategy. Of course, there may well be a lack of strategic thinking, but that does not mean there is a lack of strategy.

Strategy, as we have argued, is less a matter of choice than a matter of reality imposing itself on presidents. Former U.S. President George W. Bush, for example, rarely had a chance to make strategy. He was caught in a whirlwind after only nine months in office and spent the rest of his presidency responding to events, making choices from a menu of very bad options. Similarly, Obama came into office with a preset menu of limited choices. He seems to be fighting to create new choices, not liking what is on the menu. He may succeed. But it is important to understand the overwhelming forces that shape his choices and to understand the degree to which whatever he chooses is embedded in U.S. grand strategy, a strategy imposed by geopolitical reality.

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By George Friedman and Peter Zeihan

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

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By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla

The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda's sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

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By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prize, which was to be awarded to the person who has accomplished "the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion of peace congresses." The mechanism for awarding the peace prize is very different from the other Nobel categories. Academic bodies, such as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, decide who wins the other prizes. Alfred Nobel's will stated, however, that a committee of five selected by the Norwegian legislature, or Storting, should award the peace prize.

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By George Friedman

The United States announced Sept. 17 that it would abandon a plan for placing ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Instead of the planned system, which was intended to defend primarily against a potential crude intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat from Iran against the United States, the administration chose a restructured system that will begin by providing some protection to Europe using U.S. Navy ships based on either the North or Mediterranean seas. The Obama administration has argued that this system will be online sooner than the previously planned system and that follow-on systems will protect the United States. It was also revealed that the latest National Intelligence Estimate finds that Iran is further away from having a true intercontinental missile capability than previously thought, meaning protecting Europe is a more pressing concern than protecting the United States.

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By Dr. Liam Fox MP - Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

This year in Afghanistan has been the bloodiest for both British and American forces since the war started in 2001.

Compared with this time last year, there has been a 55 percent increase in coalition deaths, IED (improvised explosive device) incidents are up by 80 percent, and there has been a 90 percent increase in attacks on the Afghan government. On top of this increase in kinetic activity, Afghanistan's political future is filled with uncertainty pending the results of the recent presidential elections.

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By George Friedman

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, now-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that like all U.S. presidents, Barack Obama would face a foreign policy test early in his presidency if elected. That test is now here.

His test comprises two apparently distinct challenges, one in Afghanistan and one in Iran. While different problems, they have three elements in common. First, they involve the question of his administration's overarching strategy in the Islamic world. Second, the problems are approaching decision points (and making no decision represents a decision here). And third, they are playing out very differently than Obama expected during the 2008 campaign.

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by Lisa Curtis

A faulty Afghan election and decreasing American public support for the war in Afghanistan are leading President Obama to question his Administration's strategy for defeating the terrorist threat centered in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

American domestic politics and a complicated regional picture are apparently coloring President Obama's thinking on U.S. strategy toward these two countries, potentially prompting him to scale back U.S. goals in the region. That would be a mistake. While there is a need to carefully review and refine tactics and strategies, President Obama must shun the temptation to believe that the U.S. can somehow defeat al-Qaeda without preventing Afghanistan from being engulfed by the Taliban-led insurgency.

In his comprehensive assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, which was leaked to the U.S. media earlier this week, U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal lays out a strategy for moving forward that would require the deployment of fresh U.S. troops. This is not surprising. On several occasions, President Obama himself has pronounced that the war in Afghanistan has not received the appropriate resources—such as U.S. leadership, troop levels, and financial commitments—necessary to achieve U.S. objectives. General McChrystal argues for increasing the focus on protecting the Afghan population from Taliban advances, a recommendation based in part on the recent American experience in Iraq, where General Petraeus's "people-centric" approach to counterinsurgency paid dividends and ultimately discredited al-Qaeda and its harsh tactics. General McChrystal also makes the case that new U.S. troop deployments must come quickly or the U.S. risks facing a situation in which it will be impossible to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

Separating Taliban Leadership from al-Qaeda: An Unrealistic Goal

In a March 27speech, President Obama was clear on the link between the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the threat posed by al-Qaeda to the governing regimes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He rightly said, "And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban—or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged—that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

But his remarks on Afghanistan at Wednesday's United Nations General Assembly reveal that he may be second-guessing U.S. strategy in the region. While he repeated his commitment to not allowing al-Qaeda to find sanctuary in Afghanistan or "any other nation" (i.e., Pakistan), he failed to mention the Taliban insurgency that is threatening to destabilize Afghanistan and the necessity of preventing such an outcome.

His apparent backtracking on Afghanistan can also be found in statements he made on this past Sunday's morning talk shows in which he openly questioned whether fighting the Taliban insurgency is necessary to stopping al-Qaeda.

According to media reports, President Obama is considering implementing a plan supported by Vice President Joe Biden to scale back the American military presence in Afghanistan and focus on targeting al-Qaeda cells primarily in western Pakistan. This strategy would be insufficient to curb the terrorist threat emanating from the region. Ceding territory to the Taliban in Afghanistan would embolden international terrorists in the region, including in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Over the last year U.S. predator strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan have been effective at disrupting the al-Qaeda leadership, and President Obama deserves credit for aggressively employing this tactic. However, the predator strikes in Pakistan must be accompanied by sustained U.S. and NATO military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship, and they support each other's harsh Islamist, anti-West goals. It would be folly to think a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would be anything but a deadly international terrorist safe haven.

Success in Afghanistan requires that those Taliban who support international terrorists are not in a position to threaten the stability of the government. This will ultimately require a strong, well-equipped, and well-trained Afghan national army and police force. But this will take time.

In the meantime, the U.S. must prevent the Taliban from regaining influence in Afghanistan, which requires increasing U.S. troop levels. Success in Afghanistan does not require the complete elimination of anyone who has ever associated with the Taliban. But it does require that the Taliban leaders still allied with al-Qaeda and supportive of its destructive global agenda do not have the ability to reassert power in Afghanistan.

Focus on Improving U.S. Strategy toward Pakistan

Instead of considering whether to scale back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration must figure out how it can increase its diplomatic leverage with Islamabad. It is mind-boggling that after eight years of seeking to partner with Pakistan in countering terrorism in the region and providing nearly $15 billion in U.S. economic and military assistance to the country, the insurgency in southern Afghanistan is directed by Afghan Taliban leaders located in Pakistan that are "reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI," as General McChrystal concludes in his report.

The McChrystal report acknowledges that most insurgent fighters in Afghanistan are "directed by a small number of Afghan senior leaders based in Pakistan that work through an alternative political infrastructure in Afghanistan." However, the report fails to spell out a strategy for neutralizing this leadership and for convincing Pakistan to use all of the tools at its disposal to assist the U.S. in that effort.

Pakistan has made substantial gains against insurgents threatening stability inside Pakistan. There is more clarity within the Pakistani military leadership and among the Pakistani public about the threat posed to the country from Taliban elements. A recent public opinion poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 69 percent of Pakistanis worry that extremists could take control of their country. The poll further indicated that 70 percent of Pakistanis now rate the Taliban unfavorably compared to only 33 percent a year ago.

U.S. officials must now build on this momentum by convincing Pakistan to take the fight to the Afghan Taliban leadership that finds sanctuary in and around Quetta in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. U.S. officials must convince Pakistan of the futility of allowing the Afghan Taliban leadership to flourish in the region and of the potential consequences for Pakistan's own stability of refusing to crack down on these elements.

Emboldening a Generation of International Terrorists

The Taliban/al-Qaeda threat spans the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; thus, failure in one country will contribute to failure in the other—just as success in one country will breed success in the other. By appointing Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the Senior Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this year, President Obama signaled that he understood this reality.

The imperfect elections in Afghanistan should not deter the Obama Administration from providing the resources necessary to achieve stability in Afghanistan. To be sure, the outcome of the election was certainly less than ideal. But pulling back from Afghanistan would be devastating, as it would embolden a generation of international terrorists who would then be able to strike at will whenever and wherever they choose.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

Copyright 2009 The Heritage Foundation. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.


by Brett D. Schaefer

On September 23, President Barack Obama will give his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. Recent statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice may offer several clues as to the content of the President's speech. Both laid out a wide-ranging agenda that, together, would have the U.S. seeking U.N. action on nuclear proliferation and disarmament, global warming, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, development, women's rights, and a number of other issues.

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by James Phillips

President Obama soon must make one of his most important national security decisions: how to proceed in Afghanistan, a crucial theater in the war against al-Qaeda. This week the President received an assessment of the war from General Stanley McChrystal, his recently appointed commander in Afghanistan. While the details of this report remain classified, it is believed to set the framework for an expanded military effort within a new counterinsurgency strategy that puts a premium on protecting the Afghan people from Taliban terrorism and intimidation. To protect vital national interests by defeating al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies, President Obama must give his military commanders the best chance for success--not accede to advisers motivated by political expediency who would block additional troops and abandon the Administration's new Afghanistan strategy before it can be implemented.

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by Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. and Sally McNamara

Reports in the Polish media strongly suggest that the Obama Administration is about to abandon its plans for "third site" missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Abandoning the third site would represent a huge turnaround in American strategic thinking on a global missile defense system and a massive betrayal of two key U.S. allies in Eastern and Central Europe. Such a move would also significantly weaken America's ability to combat the growing threat posed by Iran's ballistic missile program and would hand a major propaganda victory to Moscow.

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By George Friedman

As August draws to a close, so does the first phase of the Obama presidency. The first months of any U.S. presidency are spent filling key positions and learning the levers of foreign and national security policy. There are also the first rounds of visits with foreign leaders and the first tentative forays into foreign policy. The first summer sees the leaders of the Northern Hemisphere take their annual vacations, and barring a crisis or war, little happens in the foreign policy arena. Then September comes and the world gets back in motion, and the first phase of the president's foreign policy ends. The president is no longer thinking about what sort of foreign policy he will have; he now has a foreign policy that he is carrying out.

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by Jaeho Hwang

The regional security dynamic surrounding the Korean Peninsula is in flux. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton trekked to Pyongyang to free the two captive journalists, creating for the first time since the North's May nuclear test an atmosphere conducive to dialogue. But Seoul has security concerns surpassing those of North Korea, including all of Northeast Asia and greater Asia, both in the short- and long-term. Here, I will lay out the future of the ROK-U.S. alliance amidst turbulent change in the security environment.

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By George Friedman

For the past several weeks, STRATFOR has focused on the relationship between Russia and Iran. As our readers will recall, a pro-Rafsanjani demonstration that saw chants of "Death to Russia," uncommon in Iran since the 1979 revolution, triggered our discussion. It caused us to rethink Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Russia just four days after Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election, with large-scale demonstrations occurring in Tehran. At the time, we ascribed Ahmadinejad's trip as an attempt to signal his lack of concern at the postelection unrest. But why did a pro-Rafsanjani crowd chant "Death to Russia?" What had the Russians done to trigger the bitter reaction from the anti-Ahmadinejad faction? Was the Iranian president's trip as innocent as it first looked?

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By Colin Clark

In what appears to be the first official expression of deep concern on the Hill about the war in Afghanistan, the House spending bill report says the appropriations committee is "concerned" about an "open-ended U.S. commitment" in a country long known for "successfully rebuffing foreign military intervention."

Although the House Appropriations Committee did not use the blunt tool of cutting spending for the war, which would bring howls of protest that they were shortchanging troops in the field, the committee wants a detailed update from the National Security Advisor and the Defense Secretary every 180 days. The report will include an administration assessment of "the overall prospects for lasting stability in Afghanistan."

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Text of memo from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq, published in New York Times 31st July 2009

It's Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home

As the old saying goes, "guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose. Today the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are good enough to keep the Government of Iraq (GOI) from being overthrown by the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the Baathists, and the Shia violent extremists that might have toppled it a year or two ago. Iraq may well collapse into chaos

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