In his speech this evening, President Obama is expected to announce the withdrawal of 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, a step that would still leave almost 90,000 U.S. military personnel in that country.
And while that pace of withdrawal is more rapid than many military leaders would prefer, it is also much slower than public opinion demands. According to a new Pew poll, 56 percent of Americans now want our troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, up sharply from 40 percent just a year ago.
That rapid change of heart can be attributed to a range of factors. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost 10 years now, with relatively little to show for it except for the death of Osama bin Laden. And with bin Laden now removed from the scene, the official rationale for staying seems much less convincing. In the Pew poll, for example, only 38 percent of Americans believed it likely that we would be able to leave behind a stable Afghan government, and personally, the optimism of that 38 percent is hard to explain.
In fact, growing disgust at the Afghan government that our soldiers are fighting to protect and in our “allies” in Pakistan has also undercut public support, as does the realization that taxpayers are spending $300 million a day on military operations, economic aid and other costs related to Afghanistan.
Considering all that, a drawdown of just 10,000 troops by the end of the year is probably the best that the Pentagon could realistically hope to see. It is also certain to disappoint those in Congress who want a far more ambitious withdrawal schedule.
– Jay Bookman