The Obama Administration is being murderously irresponsible in Afghanistan. The White House has given every signal that the US is pulling out precipitously, that drawdowns will be speeded up as soon as the election is over. This will have very damaging repercussions not only in Afghanistan but also, and more important, in neighbouring Pakistan.
As the perception of a US pullout spreads, everyone in Afghanistan will be scrambling to cut deals with the Taliban, even though that organisation is highly unpopular. No one will want to be seen as being a “collaborator” with the Americans. And you can expect more horrific incidents and attacks on US soldiers and personnel.
This oncoming debacle is totally unnecessary. The mainstream media has largely ignored it, but US forces have been making remarkable progress in recent times in pacifying the country and in winning the support of local chieftains. Critical to this process has been the belief that US forces will be around for a good long time. Thus, those who oppose the Taliban have felt that they weren’t unnecessarily jeopardising their safety or that of their families. All of these hard-won achievements will be bloodily thrown to the wind.
Our relations with Pakistan are troubled even in the best of times, but as moderate forces will tell you (I’ve heard this from more than one participant in public life there), the best way for non-extremists to flourish would be for it to be known that the US is staying in the region. As we cop out in Afghanistan, however, extremists in Pakistan will be emboldened, as they correctly conclude that there will be no contravening forces, domestic or international.
President Obama behaved in a similarly irresponsible way by pulling all of our forces out of Iraq. The Administration piously proclaims that the Iraqi government wasn’t willing to conclude a deal that would allow for leaving a substantial US force inside Iraq. But as soon as Baghdad was able to read our body language—that we didn’t want to stay—no such arrangement was possible. Expect Iraq to fall apart and its nascent democracy to shatter.
Obama apologists—and, to be fair, others—tell us that it’s unrealistic to expect the US to stay in these places for an indeterminate period of time. Hogwash. We still have substantial forces in South Korea, nearly 60 years after the end of the Korean War, to ensure that another ghastly conflict doesn’t erupt there. We still have troops, on a friendly basis, in Germany and Japan almost seven decades after World War II. And we’ve had peacekeeping troops in Bosnia since the mid-1990s.
Few global strategic trouble spots exist where we can achieve our mission, wash our hands and go home.