Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Politics of Obama’s Afghanistan Plan

A casual reader might be misled by the headline on this Associated Press article: “Officials: US to keep higher troop levels in Afghanistan.”

Does this mean that President Obama has abandoned his self-defeating plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan before he leaves office in 2017? Not quite. As the article notes, all that Obama may be doing (“no final decision on numbers has been made”) is possibly slowing down their rate of withdrawal. Originally Obama had announced plans to cut the U.S. force roughly in half, from some 10,000 today to 5,500 by the end of the year–a way station on the road to zero by 2017. Now, assuming the AP report is accurate, the administration may consent to leave more than 5,500 troops after 2015–a change urgently requested by the top U.S. commander, Gen. John Campbell, and President Ashraf Ghani, both of whom know how destabilizing a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be. But there is no indication that Obama is seriously rethinking his plan to pull out all U.S. troops before he leaves office.

We’ve seen this movie before. When Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, he promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq at the rate of one or two brigades a month, pulling all of them out within 16 months. Once in office, he slowed down the pace of the drawdown, at the request of U.S. commanders, but he still wound up pulling all of the troops out by the end of 2011 after failing to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq–and not trying very hard to achieve that goal.

What this suggests is that Obama has some flexibility about the pace of withdrawals but he is much more determined to accomplish his larger goal of “ending” wars–meaning ending American involvement in wars even if our enemies benefit from our departure. He achieved the pullout from Iraq before the end of his first term and he seems determined to achieve the pullout from Afghanistan by the end of his second term, presumably so he can brag about how he pulled U.S. troops out of conflict–and never mind that the premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq precipitated a civil war and forced Obama to send 3,000 troops back. It would be nice if the president were to apply in Afghanistan the lesson of Iraq–namely don’t leave too soon. But he is so stubborn and ideological that he may well be prepared to ignore the weight of evidence and continue with his politically motivated pullout, even if it risks subverting all that U.S. troops have fought to achieve on his watch.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »


One Response to “The Politics of Obama’s Afghanistan Plan”

  1. MARC SALZBERGER says:

    .
    The president is not the only one who is stubborn. Max Boot, from the first, not merely supported Obama’s blowing into a major 100,000 man conflagration the dying emberts of Bush’s sideshow, he backed the idiotic premise that if we can put a lid on Afghanistan we can deny terrorists a safe haven and win the war on terror.

    Obama stuck with that cynically, because it served him politically to please the hawks in the army and middle America. Boot stuck with it, because the Pentagon is a major part of his bread and butter, and/or because he actually believed that rubbish.

    Nowadays everyone, except maybe Boot, realizes that Afghanistan never was “a necessary war” and that we have no vital national interests in the place and that our departure is inevitable, and so too the return of the Taliban.

    If Obama is now slowing down his withdrawal it is precisely because he does not want to be blamed for the Afghanistan aftermath in the way he is for the ISIS disaster in Iraq.

    This is typically Obamian. Postponing the withdrawal serves him well personally, but serves the nation badly. Unlike Iraq, where we had won a real victory in a strategic spot, with real US national interests at stake, and where a substantial US residual force would have prevented the current catastrophe, in Afghanistan there is no victory to consolidate, and no long term interests to preserve. There the best course for the US is to get the leaving done and over with. All the money and lives which prolonging our stay will cost is unjustified. It will be pointless, except it will spare Obama the ignominy of leaving and seeing the Taliban return. That is what he is willing to spend the extra money and lives on. He wants to leave the ignominy to the next president. He is an expert in getting others to pay for his mistakes. What Boot is an expert in I am less sure.




Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.