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Obama’s Flawed Afghanistan Strategy

At the NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama reiterated that the United States would wind down its combat role, but would continue its advisory role and commitment to Afghanistan. The New York Times and other outlets helpfully explained that Obama was simply following the light footprint model that Obama employed against Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere.

My colleague Ahmad Majidyar–who hands down is the most astute Afghan and Pakistan political analyst in the country today (follow his tweets)–is correct to note, however, that the advisory model for Afghanistan has been tried before, by the Soviet Union. After the Soviet withdrawal, Moscow channeled up to $3 billion/year to Kabul, and also transferred to their Afghan partners much of the military equipment which it withdrew from Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Neither this nor the advisers was enough to keep Najibullah in power. Afghans have never lost a war; they just defect to the winning side. For Afghans, momentum trumps principle.

Obama seems to believe that history revolves around him rather than the other way around, but he is not immune to its precedents. Perhaps, therefore, before bragging about the draw down short of a mission accomplished, Obama might explain why he believes his strategy will work when, the last time it was tried, it ended in government collapse, civil war, and ultimately the vacuum which enabled 9/11.


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