Now that President Obama's inaugural festivities are over, he will turn his attention to tackling gun control, immigration, climate change and a series of looming budget confrontations with Republicans. Obama and his aides hope that the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will help him maintain a focus on domestic priorities.
"Since 9/11, that region has been a sinkhole of American resources, lives and political capital," says Charles Kupchan, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The real drain of resources is diminishing and I think that Obama will make sure that continues."
But as the crises in Mali and Algeria show, Obama will not have the luxury of focusing solely on domestic issues. A number of pressing foreign policy problems will demand his time and attention. Here is a look at seven big national security challenges he will face over the next four years:
Afghanistan and Pakistan: When Obama met earlier this month with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the administration said it was considering removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan when the NATO-led combat mission ends in 2014. Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, says the administration must make good on a promise of a responsible withdrawal. Also crucial for Obama will be managing the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, which has been fraught with tension. "Pakistan is a pressing priority because the whole withdrawal (and) transition taking place in Afghanistan could not be done successfully without some form of Pakistani cooperation," says Inderfurth, who is now with the CSIS think tank. "But Pakistan also is a country that, because where it resides in the region, because it is a nuclear power, because it is itself at risk of Islamic extremists, if something goes seriously wrong in Pakistan, this could be a serious national security threat to the United States." Having John Kerry as secretary of state will be an advantage. The secretary of state-designate has traveled there on behalf of the Obama administration and already has relationships with top officials.