Washington, D.C., May 5, 2009 - President Obama is taking realistic
and pragmatic foreign policy decisions, but faces daunting challenges,
particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, panelists said today at a
Voice of America (VOA) Town Hall: Obama & the World: 100 Days
Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., said Obama's new policy on Afghanistan,
which includes increasing troops and U.S. assistance, "has a good
chance" of working. But Kaufman added, "You can't carry on the kind of
economic development and governance that we need if, in fact, the
Taliban still are alive and well in that section."
"Pakistan is the No. 1 security dilemma," said Robert Satloff,
executive director of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy at
the Town Hall which was broadcast live from the Newseum to VOA's
worldwide audience. Guests participated by video from New York, Kabul,
Los Angeles, London and Miami.
(http://www.voanews.com/english/Obama100DaysTownHall.cfm), the two-hour
broadcast was carried live on seven television satellite paths, in
English and Persian. It was also aired on VOA's English radio,
including FM, AM and shortwave. Reporters from Express News TV in
Pakistan and Citizen TV in Kenya participated in the program, which
they are airing.
Michael Brown, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs
at George Washington University, praised Obama for having "a long-term
perspective." He said countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan have
"stabilization and nation-building problems that are going to take
years and years to move forward on."
Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, said
Obama appeared to be "realistic and pragmatic," but not afraid to use
force when necessary. He cited Obama's decision permitting U.S. Navy
marksmen to free a ship captain captured by Somali pirates.
In Venezuela and Iran, Obama has taken steps to engage authoritarian
leaders, a move Brown said can be a "subtle and sophisticated"
strategy. But in Sudan, John Prendergast of the Enough Project said it
was too soon to judge if Obama's policy would end the suffering of the
people in the Darfur region. Many observers believe the Sudanese
government, accused of atrocities in Darfur, will only respond to
force, he said.
Anchored by VOA's Paula Wolfson, other Town Hall guests included
Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center; Jonathan Alter of
Newsweek; writer Kristin Downey; Joe Shirley Jr., of the Navajo Nation
and Adrian Talbott of GenerationEngage. They discussed Muslim
communities, foreign policy challenges, the global economy and issues
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