Still need a wait-and-see approach to Afghan withdrawals

Tonight, President Obama is expected to announce a reduction of our troops in Afghanistan of 10,000 by the end of this year and 23,000 more by next summer — thereby unwinding the “surge” he announced 18 months ago. The question already being debated: Is this the right time to begin the withdrawal?

Keeping in mind that removing the pre-surge contingent of almost 70,000 troops apparently is not imminent, I decided to look back at Obama’s speech 18 months ago, to cadets at West Point, and see what he said then to justify the surge. Here is the key portion of that speech:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.  This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.  In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.  We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear.  This is not just America’s war.  Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali.  The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered.  And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies.  Our overarching goal remains the same:  to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan.  We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven.  We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.  And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.

As I wrote at the time, preparing the Afghan military and police to take over security for their country was a perfectly reasonable goal. But have we accomplished that, to the point that we can begin the withdrawal? Or is the president merely sticking to an arbitrary timetable?

The number of Afghan police and soldiers has grown significantly this year. Yet, if you trust our top field commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus — or at least if you believe this New York Times report on what Petraeus thinks — you’ll be inclined to think the move is premature:

Two administration officials said General Petraeus did not endorse the decision, though both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is retiring, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reluctantly accepted it. General Petraeus had recommended limiting initial withdrawals and leaving in place as many combat forces for as long as possible, to hold on to fragile gains made in recent combat.

At the same time, 10 years (almost) is 10 years. At some point, we have to find out whether Afghanistan can bear the brunt of securing Afghanistan while a more (and, one hopes, increasingly) limited U.S. force continues to target al Qaida and Taliban leaders.

So, while tonight I definitely still want to hear Obama’s rationale and explanation of how close we’ve come to meeting the goals of the surge he outlined 18 months ago, for now I am willing to go along with this: Ten thousand soldiers withdrawn by year’s end and further withdrawals next year — provided the situation on the ground doesn’t deteriorate. Next year’s withdrawals must be flexible, and contingent on the Afghan military proving it’s up to the task of taking the reins.

If Afghanistan was important to America’s security 18 months ago, and if it continues to be important enough to warrant our having tens of thousands of young men and women there, then we need to have the people and resources in place to see to our security interests. Otherwise, it makes no sense to leave a single one of our soldiers there in worsening conditions.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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34 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 22nd, 2011
6:02 pm

While recognizing that the military answers to our civilian leaders (and I use that word loosely in the case of the Idiot Messiah) I’d trust the generals on this one. Obozo cares not a whit for what happens in Afghanistan except to the extent it affects his re-election chances.

Uncle Billy

June 22nd, 2011
6:21 pm

It was under Obama that Osama bin Laden was killed. It did not happened under idiot boy Bush who was so focused on Iraq that he could hardly pay any attention to Afghanistan. Afghanistan has never been ruled. Alexander the great could not do it, Ghenghis Khan could not do it, the British could not do it, the Soviets could not do it and we cannot do it either. There is no “government of Afghanistan.”

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 22nd, 2011
6:58 pm

We’re waiting on obozo to wretch up his usual lies?

Kyle, geez.

jconservative

June 22nd, 2011
7:00 pm

“Still need a wait-and-see approach to Afghan withdrawals.”

Wait for what? To see what?

Afghanistan has been a classic feudal state for over 5000 years. American wishes about what we want to happen in Afghanistan are 5000 years out of date.

So we have a US military specially trained to fight an insurgent war. Not a single US soldier has a clue about how to deal with a feufal overlord. The top expert in feudal politics was Eleanor of Aquitaine and she died in 1204. So in Afghanistan we have a case of the blind leading the blind.

Wish us luck.

George's Missives

June 22nd, 2011
7:01 pm

It sure is nice to have a real president in the White House — President Obama. Republicans are just plain jealous of him and his abilities. They wish he had signed on as a Republican and would have gladly given the Democratic Party McCain and Palin in exchange.

Cutty

June 22nd, 2011
7:31 pm

When did republicans all of a sudden become peaceniks? Oh yeah, 1/20/09.

jconservative

June 22nd, 2011
7:47 pm

Cutty June 22nd, 2011 7:31 pm
“When did republicans all of a sudden become peaceniks? Oh yeah, 1/20/09.”

There is a lot of pure truth in this statement.

Cutty

June 22nd, 2011
7:52 pm

Thanks j. Americans do have a very short memory. 3 years ago cons wanted to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan in perpetuity. A democrat gets elected, then its why are we fighting these wars? Personally, I say bring the troops home yesterday.

jconservative

June 22nd, 2011
7:52 pm

I Report (-: You Whine )-: June 22nd, 2011 6:58 pm
“We’re waiting on obozo to wretch up his usual lies?”

Actually we are waiting for Obama to repeat Bush 43’s usual lies – on Afghanistan and Iraq Obama has been a clone of Bush – policy wise. The Bush policies are still in effect in both countries.

The policy? Build new nations for Muslims!

Don’t you guys just love the Muslim faith?

THE "REAL" TRUTH

June 22nd, 2011
7:56 pm

I agree with the comment “Since when did ReTHUGlicans become peaceniks?? Isn’t that against your own DNA? You Repukes are simply….LOST….

Hope we never see any of you back in office.

DeborahinAthens

June 22nd, 2011
8:34 pm

If you have no real goal or plan, if you have no reason for doing something in the first place, then you can never accomplish the goal. Bush started two unnecessary wars and cut taxes, and whether you Republicans like it or not, that is one of the major reasons this country has been brought to its knees. First he wanted to half-a** bomb Afghanistan, even though no Afghan citizen had anything to do with 9/11. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and Bush loves the Saudis so much he held hands with the the Saudi King while walking in the White House rose garden. The purported goal in Afghanistan was to get Osama Bin Laden. Well, now we have him. Mission accomplished. We cannot, nor should we, “nation build” in Afghanistan, and it is pathetic to see Karzid mewling and puking about not being ready for us to leave because they can’t protect themselves. For crying out loud, he’s had 10 years to get ready. Now the “game plan” is to negotiate with the Taliban to prevent them from coming back into power?????? If these people, who insist on living in the Dark Ages want the Taliban, let them have the Taliban. They deserve them. And why are we still in Iraq??? Talk about a lack of a plan. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, the Three Stooges, said “Let’s bomb Iraq for the fun of it”. They lied about WMD, then when the world found out about the lies, they said, Let’s kill Saddam for the fun of it”, they they caught, tried and hanged Saddam. Now we have to rebuild Iraq???? These wars have cost this nation over 6000 men and women and BILLIONS of dollars. So, you idiot Republicans, please don’t even think about ridiculing this President! You don’t have the right to even shine his shoes. Whatever he decides to do, it will at least be a reasoned, thoughtful decision, not a testosterone driven, bully-boy swagger into history.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 22nd, 2011
8:35 pm

obozo won’t let our troops fire back at the enemy when under attack, he negotiates with the Taliban, he goes to the lands of murderous foreign tinpot psychotics and blames the US for all of THEIR pathologies, he and his fellow socialist goons openly wish for America’s destruction, do tell, whackjobs, which of these policies did Bush initiate?

Bring the troops home before the dummycrats get them all killed for no reason.

George's Missives

June 22nd, 2011
9:13 pm

Hate is life for a Republican. Without it, they would shrivel up and blow away.

tar and feathers party

June 22nd, 2011
9:14 pm

Afghanistan – Where Empires go to die.

MrLiberty

June 22nd, 2011
9:27 pm

Yes, let’s wait and see just how many more men and women can die for a completely unnecessary cause like the immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. I wonder if anyone is working on another stark black granite monument to put up in their honor?

Let’s not forget, we must honor those who have died pointlessly by making sure more die pointlessly, That’s the american way. In for a penny, in for a pound – especially when it is someone else’s money and life.

Hegel was right, the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.

What is truly sad is that all of these folks in the military actually believe that this kind of crap has ANYTHING to do with defending americans’ freedoms. Nothing could be further from the truth. While this war has been waged, the Bush and Obama administrations, along with the complacent/complicit congress have destroyed the 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th, and other amendments and have taken away so many freedoms its pathetic. What freedoms were defended in Afghanistan? Clearly the troops have been fighting the wrong enemy. Al Quada, binLaden, the Taliban and others had no ability to take away my freedoms. Only the Federal Government did, and nobody was able to stop them (and far too many were not even willing to speak out or cast a vote to try and stop them).

Bring the troops home so they can defend us against the REAL enemies of freedom.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 22nd, 2011
9:54 pm

Cutty
June 22nd, 2011
7:31 pm

When did republicans all of a sudden become peaceniks? Oh yeah, 1/20/09
—————-

I think that’s the same date the libtards became hawks and started telling us that we all needed to support the occupant of the White House.

Hypocrite.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 22nd, 2011
9:55 pm

“Days, not weeks”

Jefferson

June 22nd, 2011
10:32 pm

Sounds like a good day for the troops.

John

June 23rd, 2011
5:39 am

No matter what solution is presented by any president (republican or democrat), people will find a reason to complain about it.

Road Scholar

June 23rd, 2011
6:00 am

If you don’t like the withdrawal, enlist and ask to be sent to Afganastan. If you can’t go, do something else productive.It is easy for one to say we should be there to endure the effects, esp when you have no idea what it is like to be there.

seabeau

June 23rd, 2011
6:22 am

I have always believed that after we discovered that nineteen of the 9/11 highjackers were from Saudi Arabia were should have demanded that the Saudi Arabians bring us the head of Bin Laden. Or suffer our displeasure!! Occupy Medina and Mecca!!

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 23rd, 2011
6:37 am

Tim McVeigh was from New York. What’s your point?

Ayn Rant

June 23rd, 2011
7:22 am

Afghanistan is a fundamentally libertarian state where law and order cannot be established. The British Empire, the Soviet Empire, and now the US Empire, have been frustrated and defeated in attempts to civilize the Afghans.

Now, the task is to withdraw as gracefully as possible from a venture that should never have been started.

When the foreign troops have gone, Afghanistan will again be a “wild west” territory supplying opiates, hosting religious nuts, and training terrorists.

“God grant us the wisdom to know what we cannot change …”

crabbyjacket

June 23rd, 2011
7:52 am

“…a fundamentally libertarian state where law and order cannot be established.”
You seem to be equating libertarian to anarchist. Most people understand them to be different.

Obozonomics

June 23rd, 2011
7:53 am

DeborahinAthens;
You liberals are so funny, and ignorant, if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are the three stooges what do you call the inexperienced loser in office now? They not only kept all the Bush policies going they expanded them to give the government more power over wiretapping Americans. Then they quadrupled the Bush spending, that took him 8 years and Obozo and his band of clowns did in three years. Then started another war, do you not understand that these are facts! If you hated the “Three Stooges” then if you had a half of a brain you would despise the Obozo administration.

gm

June 23rd, 2011
8:14 am

Obozonomics

You and the idiot Rep party, the last clown left office with no vision, this great President campaign on bringing troops home by 2011 and killing bin ladin when he get in to office, as a proud American this is really mission accomplished.
Yet the idiots and fake news channels like fox, take shots at the President for bringing our troops home, when will America learn that Rep party are not real Americans but a bunch of hypocrites, that no matter what this President does its not enough.
I can not wait till President Obama put his record against these fake Rep who have done nothing since they took office back in Nov. where are the jobs they promised they would create?

MrLiberty

June 23rd, 2011
8:18 am

seabeau – It was the presence of troops in Saudi Arabia as part of the first Bush’s war on Iraq that pissed off bin Laden and others so much that they alegedly perpetrated 9-11. Even Dick Cheny himself spoke positively of our withdrawl of troops from Saudi Arabia as something that would ease tensions and remove that motivation within the arab community.

You are way off base. If you are unwilling to look at the history of the US in its dealings with the middle east than you are unwilling to face the truth of why they hate us. History did not begin on 9-11 despite the desperate need of the neocons to believe that. There was much blood on US hands WELL before 9-11.

Chris Matthews

June 23rd, 2011
8:33 am

Obama still holds his finger in the air to see where public opinion winds are blowing! He is completely clueless on everything! The least prepared person to ever hold the office! Golf…number one…doing your job..last! Worst President in American History!!!

J Reb

June 23rd, 2011
9:23 am

‘If there are more stupid voters; the Democrats win.’ Sad but true.

joe

June 23rd, 2011
9:37 am

I have zero problem pulling troops out…but here is my beef. Why announce to the world, and to the terrorists, our intentions? Why not just do it without promoting it to everyone??

Ah, I know the reason…POLITICS. Obama is making a bid deal out if it with hopes it will improve his approval rating…and it will, temporarily, just like the bump he got when Osama was killed.

However, after a few weeks, this news will fade and the reality that is his massive entitlement spending agenda and high unemployment will return to the spot light, and ultimately doom him to a single term. Amen.

Obozonomics

June 23rd, 2011
9:37 am

Gm,
I am not a Republican, so much for your intuition, why is it that liberals jump to conclusions then base and argument on a wrong assumption? Oh well can fix stupid, buy the way as you state bring the troops home by 2011, did you make that up, because Obozo said to start this year, but his campaign promise was to bring them home in 2011, so that did NOT happen. That is a fact you seem to have missed. Talk about fake news, try NDC, MSNBC and CBS, do really believe they don’t have a liberal agenda, then you are deluded. Oh and did I forget to mention the third war Obozo started, or did you forget? So ok, bring a few home then move them over to the next war, wow mission accomplished….

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 23rd, 2011
12:07 pm

gm: where are the jobs Obozo promised he would create?
———-

I have no idea–maybe you could enlighten us.

gm

June 23rd, 2011
12:46 pm

Lil’ Barry Bailout

Count the millions of jobs he saved when your last idiot destroyed America, where are the job bills ?
rep party promised back in Nov.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 23rd, 2011
2:30 pm

Unemployment under the “last idiot” was lower in every month of His eight year Presidency than it has been in any month of your Idiot Messiah’s disastrous regime.