World Divided on Obama The Nobel Peace Laureate

When the chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee announced this morning that President Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize the news was received with a collective gasp from the room full of journalists. Around the world the announcement was received with similar surprise and divided reactions. His allies applauded the choice, while his critics questioned his qualifications.

For many in the two countries that have most recently seen U.S. military intervention, Afghanistan and Iraq, an award for peace to a president still at war is anathema.

"The peace award which has been given to Barack Obama is not right because under Obama, a lot of civilians have died here in the bombing," Abdul Rasoul, a resident of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, said. Afghans are questioning Obama's receipt of a medal that rewards efforts to broker peace when violence has increased there since he became president. This year has been the most violent year of the war for both civilians and troops.

The Taliban echoed this sentiment in a statement that condemned the award.

"He reinforces the war in Afghanistan, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and is considering sending yet more. He has shed Afghan blood and he continues to bleed Afghans and to boost the war here," the Taliban said.

There is, however, a widespread hope in Afghanistan that a president who has reached out to the Muslim world can figure out a way to tackle the growing insurgency there. Many Afghans ABC News spoke to today -- especially the better educated -- believe that even if Obama hasn't brought peace yet, he will.

Across the border in Pakistan, however, there is huge mistrust of the United States right now. Anti-Americanism is running rampant as coverage of the Kerry-Lugar bill to boost nonmilitary aid to Pakistan portrays the bill as an invasion of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Pakistanis are much more critical of Obama than Afghans, arguing that he has brought more violence to the country. As Muhammad Munir asked ABC News in Islamabad today: "There are killings all over the world, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine or Kashmir. Who is doing the killing? They [Americans] are doing it. But he is getting peace prizes as well?"


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