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GOP rescuing Obama's Afghan policy

By Richard Grenell, Special to CNN
  • Richard Grenell: Blaming GOP is ploy to distract people from administration's problems
  • Grenell: As Democrats object, Obama's Afghan policy counts on GOP to be funded
  • Writes: U.S. has good relationship with allies because they aren't asked to do anything
  • Top priority not Afghanistan on its own; it must include Pakistan, Grenell says

Editor's note: Richard A. Grenell was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve as director of communications and public diplomacy for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In this role, Grenell advised four U.S. ambassadors who served during the Bush administration. He teaches corporate social responsibility at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- President Obama is in a unique position these days.

As a Democratic president of the United States, he has a House of Representatives with 258 Democrats and only 177 Republicans and a Senate with 58 Democrats and only 40 Republicans. Obama only has to lead his own party to pass as much legislation as he wants -- and on any subject he wants.

Blaming anything on Republicans these days is simply a ploy to distract people from the real problems facing this administration. After one year in power, the White House and the Democratic Party have very little to show for the "change" they claimed they would deliver.

Although some in the Democratic Party try to blame Republicans for their lack of progress, the real problem lies in the fact that this president is trying to govern from the extreme left, and members of his own party are stopping him.

As the president tries to spend billions of dollars we don't have to increase the size and scope of government, a group of Democratic lawmakers continues to stop him from implementing most of his liberal policies and changing America.

Obama is laying out a new Afghanistan policy and will be able to count on the Republicans to make sure it is funded. While members of the president's own party were working to delay and stop his decision, the minority party is giving the president the support he needs.

Obama procrastinated on making Afghanistan policy decisions, including sending additional troops to assist the ones that are there, because his own party is uncomfortable with the inevitable decision to send more help to the men and women fighting the global war on terror.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has said he didn't want to see any more combat troops sent to Afghanistan. During the campaign, Obama and the Democrats seemed to promise their base that they would decrease and ultimately eliminate the number of troops fighting the global war on terror. In fact, they not only wanted to stop the fight, they didn't even want to mention it.

The Democratic foreign policy playbook instructs legislators to delete the phrase "global war on terror." The White House plan was to have the next round of stimulus spending finished and the nearly trillion-dollar health care through Congress before the president would announce his decision on troop increases in Afghanistan.

Democratic leaders were looking to delay the Afghanistan vote until they delivered on their other priority issues. Needless to say, some of the Democrats are not happy about Tuesday's foreign policy announcement, especially when they haven't had any legislative victories so far.

Afghanistan on its own should not be a top foreign policy priority for the United States. Afghanistan doesn't have a strategic benefit for the United States; the trillions of dollars we have spent and will spend are to ensure that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region isn't a safe haven for the Taliban, al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization.

Pakistan, with its nuclear capability, is a much more important priority for the United States. Any new Afghanistan policy must be a comprehensive Pakistan-Afghanistan policy.

What we have learned over the past several years is that the two countries' borders are permeable, and if we chase the terrorists out of Afghanistan, they will show up in Pakistan.

President Obama will need to use his much-talked-about international appeal to persuade Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai to work together to root out the terrorists camped out along their borders.

The president and his team will also need to deliver more international support for the U.N.-mandated Afghanistan mission. Over the past year, because of the lack of leadership and dithering from this White House, the international community has been let off the hook without having to increase its assistance to NATO's operation and the U.N.'s work.

Our allies are experiencing an easy and comfortable relationship with us these days because we aren't asking them to do anything. You are always popular when you host parties but not when you ask for help cleaning up.

Although the leaders of the president's own party will not be supportive of his new Afghanistan policy, Obama will be able to count on the Republicans to give him a much-needed policy win and one of the few victories this White House has seen in its first year.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard Grenell.