S.M Hali On January 20, 2010, Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of USA, completes his first year in office. It has been a tumultuous first year. Obama secured a clear 68 percent majority vote; two weeks into his new job, the president's job approval rating was at its peak - 76 percent. A year into office and his popularity graph has plummeted below 50 percent. Opinion polls show Americans sharply divided on key issues like health care and the economy. In all fairness President Obama accepted a challenging legacy from the former president George W Bush, and since then he is battling the worst economic crisis in 70 years along with a nightmarish two-front war scenario in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 50 percent job approval barrier is traditionally seen as a crucial one for the US presidents, affecting their political standing and ability to attract support for their policies in Congress. As he approaches mid-term elections, Obama will struggle to turn the graph around. The main challenges for him remain tackling the economic meltdown and extricating USA from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, credit must be given to Obama for his attention to domestic affairs, addressing the economic crisis and trying to revive confidence. He has made reasonable progress through the passage of a stimulus package and halting a financial free fall. He is on the verge of securing a health care bill - his signature reform measure that represents a significant piece of social welfare legislation. Coming to the two theatres of war, according to the Information Clearing House report, the number of Iraqis slaughtered in the war and occupation of Iraq is 1,366,350, while the number of US military personnel sacrificed (officially acknowledged) is 4,691. The cost of the war is $701,481,857,932. On the other front, the number of international occupation force troops slaughtered in Afghanistan comes to 1,589, while the cost incurred so far on sustaining operations in Afghanistan is $248,017,325,165. According to reports, civilian casualties in Afghanistan since 9/11 range between 11,760 and 31,357. Horrifying figures aren't they? Moreover, we in South Asia will judge Obama's performance from our perspective although his difficulties at home do affect his policies for the region. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, President Hamid Karzai, despite being accused of sponsoring corruption, was re-elected in a controversial election. On the war front, struggling with mounting casualties in the face of a resurgent Taliban, after vacillating for months, on December 01, 2009, President Obama announced that he would escalate the US military involvement by deploying an additional 30,000 soldiers over a period of six months. He also proposed to begin troop withdrawal 18 months from that date. But the following day, the American commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, cautioned that the timeline was flexible and "is not an absolute." The response of the Taliban regarding the announcement of troop surge has been: "You may have the watches but we have the time" Apparently, an addition of 30,000 troops will not win the war for the US and NATO in Afghanistan; at best it will buy them the break for an exit. Unable to afford a mobilisation of 300,000 troops that would be required to do the job, Obama can only hold the existing important population and communication centres, while his air power will be used to flush out the Taliban. The US thus cannot exit without first preparing the Afghan National Army (ANA) to replace it which could take years. The peril having been compounded by the fears of Al-Qaeda/Taliban infiltration in the rank and file of the ANA, as was demonstrated by the recent attack on the CIA headquarters in Khost. The relationship with Pakistan has mutated into one of trust deficit. Both sides are wary of the other. The Bush era demands to "do more" now invoke doing more against the Taliban attacking the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The trust deficit is goaded by the stringent conditions contained in the Kerry-Lugar Bill. In particular, the provisions of the bill relating to strengthening of democracy in Pakistan, non-interference of the armed forces and spy agencies in political matters and civilian control over military affairs are rooted not in USA's love for democracy in Pakistan but in its perception of the involvement of security forces of Pakistan in terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Moreover, the recent promulgation of exposing Pakistanis and citizens of 13 other states to more stringent airport checks has further fueled the distrust. India's role in the region has also sullied Obama's performance. While the US has been urging Pakistan not to consider India as its primary enemy and withdraw some of its forces from the eastern front and deploy them in the so-called War on Terror. India has reportedly used its presence in Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Indian administration's refusal to return to the dialogue table, brinkmanship and continued oppression of the Kashmiris in IHK does not give Pakistan the opportunity to re-deploy its forces. Nevertheless, President Obama had initially sent positive signals regarding the resolution of the Kashmir issue but his efforts have apparently been thwarted by India. Some conspiracy theorists opine that India is being prepared as a bulwark against China, thus its brinkmanship. Another point of contention has been the civil-nuclear accord which the US has signed with India but has denied the same to Pakistan. India's perceived military role in Afghanistan after the departure of the coalition forces spells trouble both for Pakistan and USA. The covert visit of the Indian DG Military Intelligence, General Loomba, to Kabul and the terror attack following it; the alleged RAW sponsored Taliban attack on CIA agents in Khost point towards the US undoing in Afghanistan. If Obama wants to be judged as a great president, he must consider getting rid of the millstone of India from around his neck. All in all, President Barack Obama presents a more humane head of state who is keen to bring peace to the world. His policies for reconstruction and restoration of civic amenities in Afghanistan, Swat and FATA, reaching out to the Muslim Ummah must be lauded. The writer is a political and defence analyst.