U.S. President Barack Obama said that the danger of instability will continue in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East, and that al-Qaida and the Islamic State pose direct threats for the American people. Our first priority, the president said, is the protection of the American people; a handful of terrorists with no regard for human life can cause great loss. The president said that we need to reject any policies that target people on the basis of religion or race. We will teach the Islamic State group the same lesson that we have previously taught other terrorists. He said that he still stood by his decision to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay; there should be no politics on the matter of human rights. He would continue to place emphasis on tasks that remained incomplete.
These thoughts were expressed by President Obama at a joint session of both houses of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) in his last State of the Union address. This is the final year of President Obama's presidency; the next State of the Union address will be delivered by the new president, who will have his own policies. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have endorsed the views expressed by President Obama, whereas Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has described the address as being irrelevant to the most recent world situation and boring.
In his address, the president found it necessary to refer to the Guantanamo Bay prison; he has been demanding the closing down of this prison since the time of his presidential campaign, yet could not accomplish this in the duration of the two terms of his presidency, something that can be viewed as a major failure. Very possibly, the U.S. security establishment proved to be an obstacle in the matter.
Similarly during his presidential campaign, President Obama had promised to reduce the U.S. Army presence in Afghanistan, but has been unable to fulfill this promise also, since circumstances forced him to actually increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. He had maintained that all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by 2014. Now, even 2015 is over, but U.S. troops continue to remain in Afghanistan.
In his address, the U.S. president told the nation that instability will continue in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but did not consider it necessary to clarify the extent of America's responsibility in the creation of this instability. One month after 9/11, Obama's predecessor, President Bush, started the bombardment of Afghanistan, and the Taliban government was overthrown through continuous air attacks. After this, land forces of America and its allies (NATO) also entered Afghanistan, and Hamid Karzai was brought over from the U.S. and set up as the president of Afghanistan. For more than a decade, Karzai continued to rule Afghanistan, but the dream of a peaceful Afghanistan could not be realized to this day. Terrorist attacks are taking place even in the Red Zone in Kabul. Just the other day, an explosion occurred near the Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad, in which security guards, as well as people waiting in line outside the consulate to get visas lost their lives. When this is the condition of peace and security within the capital, Kabul and nearby areas, one can guess what it must be like in far-flung areas. The activities of the Afghan Taliban are also on the increase. Although the possibility of restarting talks with them is emerging — largely through Pakistan's efforts — it is still unclear how many groups of the Taliban will be willing to start talks.
Seeing that the situation could deteriorate under prevailing circumstances, the U.S. has also slowed down the process of withdrawing its troops. There is the possibility that the Taliban may expel the National Army and seize power for themselves in areas where they are strong. Under the circumstances, the focus is on negotiations to resolve the issues.
The effort made by the U.S. to bring peace to Afghanistan through the roar of cannons has failed, and now, the option of talks is being attempted, and Pakistan has an important role in this process. But circumstances in Afghanistan are creating great difficulties for Pakistan too. The terrorism seen in Pakistan today, which reached immense proportions prior to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, is also directly related to the situation in Afghanistan, which has helped to provide militants the opportunity to organize themselves in Pakistan. Furthermore, the reason they targeted Pakistani security installations and Pakistani security forces was that they believed Pakistan had provided facilities to the U.S. for its attack on Afghanistan. Prior to the arrival of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, suicide attacks did not take place in Pakistan; they started only after the U.S. came.
Pakistan has fought its war against terrorists all by itself; no country helped it in this. Pakistani security forces, rangers, police, and members of other departments sacrificed their precious lives and are still doing so. American authorities acknowledge these sacrifices at times; at other times, they demand more. But the U.S. should at least accept that the prevailing instability in Afghanistan was created by the U.S. itself, and that the U.S. is also largely responsible for the fire of terrorism that has engulfed Pakistan.
The assistance received by Pakistan from the U.S. and others in this war against terrorism is $100 billion, which is a small fraction of the cost it has sustained because of the war.
President Obama has expressed determination about the U.S. dealing with the terrorists and has applied for Congress's approval — which, possibly, he will secure — to send troops against the Islamic State group in the Middle East. However, this much is certain: Even Obama's successor will need to be prepared to deal with the problem of terrorism. If instability continues in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the effects of terrorism will continue to be felt in the U.S. and the West too.