Ex-UN envoy: Putin taking advantage of Obama's 'weakness'
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Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad says Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of President Obama’s “weakness” on the global stage.

“He’s taking advantage of the relative – weakness, let’s call it, of entrenchment demonstrated by President Obama,” Khalilzad told John Catsimatidis on "The Cats Roundtable" on AM 970 New York in an interview airing Sunday. “He wants to show that to solve the Middle East problem, you have to work with Russia, that the United States is a fading power, Russia is a rising power.”

Khalilzad, who served as a foreign policy advisor to President George W. Bush, said Putin “exaggerates” Russian strength military to mask economic and cultural weaknesses, which makes him “dangerous.”

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“We need to oppose Russia in Syria by supporting groups that are sympathetic to the West, by being more active against ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], by doing more humanitarian-wise ourselves,” Khalilzad said. “But at the same time, given that Russia has asserted itself, is a player, we cannot exclude them now from a potential settlement of the Syrian conflict.”

Khalilzad, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and to Iraq, commended Obama for adjusting his foreign policy to keep troops in Afghanistan through his second term.

“On Afghanistan, I think the president’s decision to defer his earlier commitment to withdraw all of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, to keep the forces there and let the next president decide whether to go for total withdrawal or not is a prudent adjustment given the situation in that region,” Khalilzad said.

However, he said he would have preferred the president not reduce the number of troops on the ground from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

“I think Afghanistan policy adjustment was prudent, although my judgment would be that we need to keep the force at a slightly larger level than what the president has decided,” Khalilzad said. “He wants to keep it under 6,000. The preferred military option would have been to keep it at the current level of under 10,000, but I think fundamentally he has done the right thing.”

Khalilzad was optimistic about Afghanistan overall, noting that the U.S. can keep terrorists out of the country with fewer than 10,000 troops, when it formerly needed 100,000 to do so.