Commentary Magazine


Attack on Intercontinental Casts Doubt on Obama’s Drawdown Plans

The Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul is a nice joint, at least by Afghan standard; I’ve enjoyed dinner on its patio along with numerous well-to-do Afghans and foreigners.  There are always lots of guards at its entrance and other security personnel milling around, many of them protecting VIP diners. I am as shocked as anyone a squad of suicide bombers–belonging, probably, to the Haqqani Network–could penetrate its perimeter and kill perhaps a dozen people. But it is absurd to claim, as this New York Times article does, “Attack at Kabul Hotel Deflates Security Hopes in Afghanistan.” It does, however, cast into doubt President Obama’s drawdown plans.

The fact remains security is good in Kabul–better than in Baghdad, even now. Security is also good throughout much of northern and western Afghanistan where few Pashtuns live. Security is more tenuous in the south but improving thanks to the recent push by coalition forces in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The eastern part of the country remains more unsettled; indeed it is possible the suicide bombers infiltrated across the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier in the east and made the relatively short journey to Kabul.

Gen. David Petraeus’ campaign plan had called for tackling the security problems of the east next year. President Obama’s precipitous and ill-advised drawdown (far beyond anything his military commanders had recommended) now casts those plans into doubt, thereby allowing the Haqqani Network to carry out such terrorist operations indefinitely. With U.S. forces giving the impression they are leaving, the Haqqanis and their allies in the Taliban and HiG and al-Qaeda could even consolidate control of more territory in the east.

Obama’s withdrawals are premised on the notion the “tide of war is receding,” and the time is ripe for negotiating with the Taliban, Haqqanis, et al. The attack on the Intercontinental exposes the foolishness of those hopes. The jihadists in Afghanistan are battered but hardly defeated; they are not yet willing to lay down their suicide vests. And they are still strong enough to stage a bloody comeback if–as appears likely–we have lost the will to fight them.