The Student Blog Post series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.
The Obama administration’s recent decision to extend the presence of American troops (5,500) in Afghanistan through late 2016 presents several positive outcomes to Democratic presidential nominees, and specifically to Hillary Clinton.
This strict reversal in foreign policy by President Obama represents not only misplaced election promises, but further seems to be a lesson learned from previous US troop withdrawals going as far back Vietnam and as recently as Iraq. This reactionary move is clearly meant to give the U.S backed government in Afghanistan more time to train and form a military that is more capable of fighting the Taliban, and prevent Afghanistan from regressing back into the pre-9/11 extremist religious state that is a training ground for Sunni militant groups. The rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria absent of US forces further give the Obama administration merit in preventing the rise of another Sunni extremist group (Taliban) in South Asia.
One popular talking point that has been consistently levied against the Democratic Party by Republicans in the post 9/11 era is the notion that Democrats have been historically weak in terms of national defense, and in the present War on Terror. Hillary Clinton has a strong association with the foreign policy decisions of the Obama Administration as she served as Obama’s Secretary of State during his first term. The continued stay of US troops in Afghanistan can be used as a showing of strength when it comes to fighting terrorism. The War in Afghanistan has seemingly always been the more acceptable war to the American public, in stark contrast to Iraq. If the continued presence of US troops in Afghanistan leads to a more stable Afghan state, it could go down as a positive policy legacy of not only the Obama administration but a potential Clinton administration.
There is a slight possibility that the presence of 5,500 troops will not prevent the Taliban from retaking Afghanistan in their well-publicized summer offensives. This would be coincidentally timed with the presidential election process, which would be in full swing. The collapse or near collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul could be a potential weakness of the Obama administration, and by extension Hillary Clinton, akin to Iraq and the rise of ISIL in the region.
The influence that a continued presence of US troops will provide could either bolster long-held Republican talking points or be the shift in defense policy that will no longer be a point of contention for Democrats.
Don Panditha is a political science major at Cal Poly Pomona who enjoys cycling, snowboarding, and plans to work in local government when he graduates.