Prescription for Disaster
When President Obama decided to fight the war in Afghanistan in 2009, he ordered an extra 50,000 troops for the effort, more than doubling the number of soldiers deployed to nearly 100,000.
But it was obvious even then that Obama cared more about domestic politics than anything else. He didn't want to appear weak to the voting public, so he followed his generals' advice on troop levels. At the same time, he announced a July 2011 withdrawal date on a U.S. military presence, undermining our strategic goals.
This is what happens when you try to please everybody. By raising troop levels Obama wanted to reassure our Afghan friends that he wouldn't abandon them. But his insistence on a withdrawal date had the opposite effect. By insisting on a withdrawal date, Obama wanted to reassure his political supporters at home that he wasn't continuing the foreign policies of George W. Bush. But the increased troop levels he approved had the opposite effect.
To save his reputation as Commander in Chief, Obama is counting on the Afghan police and army we're leaving behind to be effective (and pro-western) guarantors of civil order.
To bolster this point Obama claims that since the surge, "Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops."
But there's more to the story than mere numbers. In a recent study first publicized by the Wall Street Journal, the future of American-Afghan relations gives little cause for optimism.
The study reveals "growing, systemic" fratricides by Afghan troops, who have demonstrated a disturbing tendency to kill their American trainers. The study's authors denounce Obama's charade of numbers. The International Security Assistance Force's "emphasis on quantity over quality with regard to the (Afghan National Security Forces') buildup has been self-destructive," asserts one author.
Political turmoil will surely follow from Obama's speech. Afghans will see in it a confirmation that Americans are cowards in search of the nearest exit. This will just worsen the already serious training woes from which we suffer. Again, President Obama's weakness gives us the worst of everything. Too slow a withdrawal to end the war, combined with too weak a commitment to the security goals Obama supposedly favors, will damage morale with both American troops and an already beleaguered Afghan Army.
The result will likely be a mess the next U.S. President will have to clean up, at a much higher cost in American blood and treasure than we'd pay today if we followed a more resolute course.
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