Afghanistan — Time to pull the plug
January 11, 2013 12:00 AM | 1563 views | 2 2 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If reports are true that the Obama administration is considering reducing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 3,000 at the end of 2014, the U.S. presence there would be effectively over. The war that began there in 2001 would end.

The White House has hinted that absent an agreement with the government of Hamid Karzai or its successor, the U.S. and its coalition allies might even pull out all troops when the U.N. mandate for their presence expires at the end of 2014.

A similar impasse over a status of forces agreement in Iraq — the right of U.S. troops to conduct independent combat missions with immunity from local law — led to the earlier-than-planned withdrawal of the U.S. military there.

It is probably fair to say to say that the American public, at least that dwindling few who still pay attention to this war, would not be brokenhearted if we pull completely out of Afghanistan.

There are 66,000 American troops there now, methodically turning over their outlying bases to the Afghan army which still needs substantial U.S. support, including supplies, transport and intelligence.

The NATO commanders seem agreed that a residual force of, at a minimum, 10,000 to 30,000 troops is needed to protect the status quo and continue training and equipping the Afghan security forces. A force of 3,000 to 6,000 could protect Kabul and the vital Bagram air base and not much else.

The U.S. had a valid reason for going into Afghanistan — to catch and punish those behind the 9/11 attacks. Most of that mission was quickly achieved, although the demise of Osama bin Laden himself took longer than expected.

It can be argued that our complete exit from Iraq was a mistake, one that squandered the copious amounts of blood and treasure poured into that country — an endeavour that had resulted in a fledgling democracy in a vital part of the world. President Obama’s decision to completely pull out put those gains and that democracy at great risk and easily could result in country run by U.S.-hating Islamist regime like the one in Iran.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is in a remote part of the world with little intrinsic geopolitical value. Moreover, our “nation-building” efforts there have done little to transform it or engender democracy. Those efforts have only gotten harder and less successful following Obama’s well-publicized decision in 2010 to start reducing our forces last year. We should not be fighting wars that we have no plan and no will to win.

A stay-behind force of 3,000 in Afghanistan is almost the same as no presence at all. At best that size force might prevent another Benghazi; at worst, it would provide an escort sufficient to spirit a pro-U.S. government to the airport as the Taliban and assorted warlords closed in on the capital.

At this point, there is next to nothing to be gained by staying in Afghanistan and much to be lost. There’s no point in pretending any longer that we are there to win the war or remake the country. Our goal now should be to remove our troops and other assets as quickly and bloodlessly as possible.

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Jon Lester
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January 11, 2013
I honestly believe Afghanistan would be better off under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (also known as the Shaghai Cooperation Council), because it's a neighbor of those member states, and of more immediate concern to their own security.

Contrary to what many of us were led to believe, the Carter administration was arming Afghan rebels six months before the Soviet invasion, which itself was a treaty obligation, and also done partly in response to cross-border incursions and narco-terrorism. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were formed by some of these same rebels and terrorists, and it didn't help matters when Brzezinski told some of them, "we believe that God is on your side."

East Cobber
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January 11, 2013
Amen, brother
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