Abandoning Afghanistan
When Senator Barack Obama was running for president back in 2008, he accused the Bush administration, his opponent Senator John McCain, and their supporters of taking their eyes off the ball by fighting a war in Iraq and ignoring the "necessary war"--the war in Afghanistan. Well, four short years later, by Obama's lights, Afghanistan is no longer the necessary war but a war to be ignored, a war to be "ended" regardless of the strategic consequences of doing so precipitously.

None of this should come as a surprise. Since early in his presidency, when deigning to speak at all about Afghanistan, President Obama has said little about why defeating the Taliban is important. When he does make reference to Afghanistan, it's invariably to talk of timelines for bringing the troops home or, as he said at the U.N. in September, ending the war "on schedule in 2014." Of course, saying the war will end on schedule doesn't make it reality -- a fact Afghans know all too well.

With the Taliban on their heels but not defeated, Pakistani intelligence releasing incarcerated Taliban back onto the streets, roadmaps being drawn up for "peace talks" that would allow hardcore Taliban officials into Afghan governing posts, and Obama administration plans to eliminate funding for some 100,000 Afghan security forces after we leave, it's no wonder arms sales in Afghanistan are booming--not only for warlords who control local militias but also for ordinary citizens. The tragedy is that this needn't be the case.

As limited an effort as the surge in Afghanistan has been, it's had real success. In Helmand and Kandahar, previously key Taliban strongholds, American, Afghan, and allied forces have cleared insurgent bastions and defeated every attempt by the Taliban over the past year to regain their lost territory. But because the administration was determined to go "light" on the number of surge troops and then draw them down more rapidly than had been recommended by commanders, the original plan to tackle simultaneously the insurgent presence in Afghanistan's eastern provinces was never executed. Now, with the anticipated drawdown of the remaining troops over the next year, a full-on counterinsurgency effort in that region will never take place. Nor is it the case that Afghan security forces have not stepped up their game. When partnered with American and allied combat forces, Afghan troops have learned their trade and begun to fight well. However, they still lack the logistics, intelligence, and mobility capabilities needed to go it alone. Sustaining our combat and support efforts for just a few more years would ensure that when our combat teams do leave Afghanistan, there is a force in place that can effectively defend its own homeland.

Critics of the war like to point out that the Afghan conflict is the longest overseas war in American history--implying that it's a hopeless case. Yet, for much of that time, the effort in Afghanistan was a holding action, with the war in Iraq eating up time, resources, and energy until the American surge and change in strategy in 2006-07 turned that conflict around. The nation might well be tired of war, but it's only been a little over three years since President Obama announced his own surge and new strategy. When it comes to counterinsurgencies, a little patience goes a long way.

But this is not a patient president. The pattern for Iraq, Libya, and now Afghanistan has been basically the same. End American military involvement as soon as possible, and damn the consequences.
Posted by: Pappy 2012-12-25