Analysis: Obama's Woes Keep Piling Up Around Globe

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The woes keep piling up for President Barack Obama.

While it is unfair to blame him for all the world's problems (although some folks try) there is no question he is having trouble finding the right answers.

Is there one for pacifying Afghanistan, even assuming he makes the hard judgment that more American troops must be lost to reach that end?

Nearly 800 have lost their lives since the 2001 invasion began.

Pulling out is not an option, a White House spokesman said this week.

So more Americans are at risk, whether Obama decides on another buildup or stays at about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Next door, in Pakistan, Obama is looking for a way to motivate the government to try harder to neutralize the militant fighters in border sanctuaries. One familiar approach is to contribute U.S. money to aid the government.

But Pakistan's military leaders are questioning the proposed aid package of $1.5 billion a year for five years as potentially meddlesome.

How to ensure the nuclear-armed country is a safe and reliable ally against terrorism is a tough one for the president.

So is finding a way to deter Iran from taking the final steps to production of nuclear weapons _ a goal Iran denies but most of the world does not doubt it is pursuing.

If Iran does not negotiate a settlement, and the prospects appear dim right now, its power to intimidate would be expanded, and might even be used.

Lurking in the background, meanwhile, is the unresolved Middle East conflict.

Obama seems persuaded that Israel should give ground to the Palestinians to build a state next door, risky as that proposition might be. Militants, taking a break right now, might seize new opportunities to strike their despised target.

The fighting would be costly and hard to contain.

This catalog of woes, though, does not tell the whole story of Obama's more than eight months as president.

He is overseeing a faster-than-expected withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq with a decline in violence.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, has said 4,000 troops will be sent home this month ahead of schedule.

Obama has ordered all combat troops out of the country by the end of next August.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has offered to resume negotiations that are designed to uproot his country's nuclear weapons program. He has reversed himself before, but this is the clearest signal of a willingness to negotiate again since a declaration last year that North Korea would never return to the table.

Relations between the U.S. and China are on an upward climb with China playing a leading role, for instance, in trying to get North Korean talks started again.

And Obama's decision to shelve a plan for installing an anti-ballistic missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland has improved relations with Russia.

Yet at this point, the bad news outweighs the good.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Barry Schweid has covered diplomacy for The Associated Press since 1973.

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