To No One's Surprise…

….certainly not to my readers, President Obama will announce troop cuts in Afghanistan.

Here’s the thing: 30,000 sounds impressive until you realize that basically brings us back to twice the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan on January 21, 2009. This “surge” was enabled because Obama drew these troops down from Iraq and shuffled them over a country or two.

In fairness to Obama, Afghanistan was the forgotten war in the Bush administration, and so was wildly underresourced. It really deserved more focus in the early years, and many opportunities were lost. Obama had no choice but to double down.

And that’s fine, for what it is. Strategic troop placements definitely have had an impact, but as the focus of attention turned from Iraq (the “wrong” war) to Afghanistan (the “right” one), it became clear that the situation in Afghanistan was untenable as status quo, even allowing for the surge. The goal of the mission, the defeat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, was sort of successful, if you believe that Al Qaeda is crippled (it is) beyond repair (probably) and that the Taliban will behave themselves (probably not, but I’d be willing to be surprised.)

It was not by any means a rousing success, full stop. At best, we’re looking at between 60-80% of our objective achieved, at a great cost to both Afghanis and American troops.

And if you define the mission as the one Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others have envisioned, a transformation of Afghanistan into a firewall against Islammic extremism, then we’ve failed miserably if we allow the Taliban to come to the table and define a role for themselves in Afghanistan’s future. At the very most we could hope for in terms of that goal, we’ve established a point of attack should extremism rear its ugly head.

Indeed, the Arab Spring has made that goal somewhat moot and problematic: extremism has been rejected time and time again by nations who are actually behind that firewall, leaving basically Iran and Pakistan as the major players in shaping Islamism. Syria may shortly see itself an island amidst moderates who won’t accept noisy neighbors.

Or, As Richard Holbrooke said before he died last year:

”œThe weak point in America’s strategy has always been this endless debate about whether we were just there to protect ourselves or had a grander vision for Afghanistan.”

By drawing troops down now, instead of next summer, it’s clear that Obama is walking back the Clintonian doctrine. I expect Secretary Clinton to resign in the next few months, ahead of the election cycle next year.

The other aspect of this withdrawal is a rebuff of Hamid Karzai and the Afghani government. The President was fairly clear when he said the surge would last onoly so long as Afghanistan proved it was able to self-govern regions that would be secured by American troops.

Karzai has apparently been too busy miscounting votes and lining his pockets to notice that he’s failed to secure any region beyond Kabul. In the midst of all this, he then turns on the hand feeding him and complains about an occupation.

That’s rather rude, if perhaps true, but Karzai has always played this game of complaining while dipping his beak and this is what worries me about the Taliban negotiations.

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  • Obama should declare there will be NO withdrawal at this time and in fact he will increase troop levels by 50 thousand. Net affect, the talks with the Karzi prone Taliban will move forward quickly and NATO
    will be able to draw down much faster, it will shorten the political
    reconciliation process and further alienate Al-Qaeda from the Taliban.

    “My Taliban friends, you have not betrayed your arab friends, you have
    honored your pledge to shelter and protect your muslim brothers. You have been true to you beliefs, but Al-Qaeda has left and gone to your cousins in Pakistan and as such your protection is no longer required.
    For your honor you have endured great hardship and your reward now is to enter the political process in Afganistan. We welcome you”

  • Because if they actually come home for more than a year or two, someone will have the bright idea that it’s time to trim the military budget. Obama is all too willing to kick that can down the road straight through his presidency IMHO.

  • If these people, who are being sacrificed to war, come home, where are the jobs for them?

    “All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

  • he is no great statesman but he has every right to bitch about our actions there. Whats rude is consistently killing civilians and than constantly trying to hide the fact. What is even ruder was Eikenberry’s obnoxious statements to Afghanisttan student s and faculty.

    US envoy reproaches Afghan president on criticism
    Sunday June 19 2011

    Associated Press= KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan publicly reproached Afghanistan’s president Sunday for painting American forces here as occupiers and enemies — one of the strongest signs yet that Afghanistan’s international allies are no longer willing to excuse President Hamid Karzai’s harangues as harmless domestic politicking.

    U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry told university students and faculty in the western city of Herat that he felt the need to speak from his heart as he reaches the end of his two-year tour as ambassador. The words that came next were strongly critical of the Afghan president, without naming Karzai.

    “I find occasional comments from some of your leaders hurtful and inappropriate,” Eikenberry told the crowd according to a transcript of the speech.

    In recent speeches, Karzai has said the U.S. is in danger of becoming an occupying force, threatened to take unspecified “unilateral action” against international forces that conduct air strikes and accused international allies of undermining and corrupting his government.

    The U.S. envoy hit back hard.

    “When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost in terms of lives and treasure, hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people … they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here,” Eikenberry said. “Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs, children of those who lost their lives in your country — they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one’s sacrifice.”

    Eikenberry’s tour as ambassador has been strained by his tense relationship with Karzai. In a classified memo in 2009, Eikenberry said that Karzai was not a reliable partner with whom to rebuild Afghanistan. The memo were leaked to the press, and Eikenberry has spent the time since trying to repair the fractured relationship. He has repeatedly insisted that he and Karzai work well and comfortably together.

    Now, as he prepares to hand over the post to Ryan Crocker, Eikenberry appears to have decided to speak more candidly.

    “When we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse, our pride is offended, and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on,” Eikenberry said.

    His words were especially ominous, coming just a month before the beginning of a scheduled drawdown of American troops. President Barack Obama has pledged to start bringing some soldiers home in July but has not yet announced how many.

    feminazi extraordinare 😀

  • …in error it’s at least as ill-mannered to consistently, deliberately take the self-enriching actions Karzai and his clan have. Ultimately those actions have got to have killed as many Afghans if not far more.

    If in the due course of time he and his get Najibullah’d I shan’t be greatly surprised (nor saddened, frankly).

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • we kill them , try to cover it up and then keep doing the same thing. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes.

    Most of my anger right now is aimed at Eikenberry. I actually can understand his anger towards Karzai but he choose to express it in front of students. I wonder how far a foreign general/envoy would get insulting Obama on a US campus.

    I truly believe Karzai will get his and I don’t think I will be feeling too bad about. To quote Clarence Darrow: ‘I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.’

    feminazi extraordinare 😀

  • Based on what I have taken away from some ISAF folk things look very different from the inside. I think while there is some goodly “wishful thinking” going on in various ISAF crevices (e.g., Tarok Kalacha) there’s also a big helping of outside observers having very different pictures of events than folks inside, with the truth likely at some indeterminate point in between.

    These are really contentious issues in quite an intense IO environment where truth takes a seat waaaay at the back of the bus. As an instance, the picture of the most celebrated of the wedding party wipeouts is actually really dependent on where one is sitting – the prog crowd, sure of their truth says that it was gratuitous collateral. Turns out in the event that there were actually guys on the ground with Mk 1 eyeballs who saw SAF, but that never really got disclosed in the public accounting of things because it was SMU sourced reporting. Similarly, a lot of the casualty figures end up being pretty malleable depending on what side of the issue one is on and verification is pretty thorny.

    Short form: I’m not a big fan of many aspects of current ops, but reality frankly ain’t where a lot of the reflexive “US/NATO bad” commentary thinks it is, either.

    ISAF = International Security Assistance Force
    IO = Information Operations
    SAF = Surface to Air Fire
    SMU = Special Mission Unit (Tier 1 Special Forces)

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • some ‘wedding parties” were not but it doesn’t change the fact that many innocents were killed at real ones. If they don’t have almost full assurance of what they are hitting then they are the problem and not the solution.

    feminazi extraordinare 😀

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