Obama’s Afghanistan Gamble


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Indeed, the president seemed to indicate that the focus of American efforts against al-Qaeda would now be concentrated in Pakistan. After lauding the Pakistanis for their counterterrorism efforts, the president said, “No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region.” The president said that he would hold the Pakistanis to their commitments to fight terrorists and would not tolerate “any safe-haven for those who aim to kill us.”

The president’s decision was made against the political backdrop of a re-election campaign and a battle in Congress over the deficit. His call to cut another $400 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years, in addition to the $78 billion already slashed by Secretary Gates, will be an easier pill to swallow if the $120 billion a year we are currently spending on the Afghanistan war alone were to be substantially reduced. The cost of the war in Afghanistan surpassed spending for the Iraq war for the first time in 2010 after money earmarked for Afghanistan skyrocketed when Obama took office.

But clearly, the overriding reason for the faster pace of withdrawal than that recommended by military commanders is due to the genuine war weariness of the American people, and the political calculation that bringing the troops home at an accelerated pace will help the president win votes in 2012. A Pew poll out this week showed that 56% of Americans favored bring the troops home “as soon as possible.” This reflects a 16-point rise in that number since June of 2010. A similar rise in support for a quick withdrawal was seen in a CBS poll from earlier this month where 64% of respondents were in favor of the troops leaving Afghanistan.

The president’s Republican rivals have responded cautiously, arguing that any withdrawal must be measured against the situation on the ground. But it is unlikely they will criticize the president too heavily for doing essentially what most of them have been arguing for these past months on the campaign trail.

There were scattered voices of opposition. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “We’ve undercut a strategy that was working. I think the 10,000 troops leaving this year is going to make this fighting season more difficult.” Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty broke with most of his fellow Oval Office aspirants, saying, “When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully.” Pawlenty urged the president to follow the advice of General Petreaus and “get those [Afghanistan] security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.”

And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers bluntly accused the president of making the withdrawals because of politics. “It seems the President is trying to find a political solution with a military component to it, when it needs to be the other way around,” wrote Rogers.

In the end, the arguments made by Petreaus and his Afghan commanders were overridden by political and budgetary considerations. The notion that it is folly to base important military decisions on how politically popular the move might be, or how much money it will cost, has fallen on deaf ears in the White House.

It may very well be that the mission to change the nature of Afghanistan’s society and economy was doomed from the start, and that despite the heroic efforts of our military, the job of creating a functional nation out of the disparate collection of tribes and clans in Afghanistan proved to be a noble, but ultimately unsuccessful experiment in nation building. The more paramount objective has always been ensuring that Afghanistan sands do not becomes the fertile soil of militant jihadism. This mission was never doomed, but now we must hope that it has not been lost.

Rick Moran is Blog Editor of The American Thinker, and Chicago Editor of PJ Media. His personal blog is Right Wing Nuthouse.

 

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  • Xerxes

    "The more paramount objective has always been ensuring that Afghanistan sands do not becomes the fertile soil of militant jihadism."

    After the second world war, Germany was de-nazified. And it was necessary to stabilize the country. In Afghanistan *nothing* of the same has been tried. Every little boy in Afganistan is taught to hate the westeners in the Koran schools. And this has gone on for 10 years of NATO/ISAF occupation. These schools should have been closed down, and those boys (and girls, who could now finally be allowed to enter school) should be taught in secular schools. Instead, the jihadists have been allowed to poison the minds of another generation with no opposition.

    • Andres de Alamaya

      Absolutely right, Xerxes. That, however, is just one blunder of the large total.

    • Jim_C

      I don't think you can seriously compare Germany, an established and advanced Western country with a rich history to Afghanistan, an tribal backwater of arbitrary boundaries, a history of being impossible to "conquer," and no infrastructure to begin with, much less "schools," which our military was, bizarrely, expected to build (while the ones in our own country are falling apart).

      • Xerxes

        I did not say they were very like, other than having a poisonous ideology that makes an obstacle for peace. It is what you do from there that makes all the difference.

        Anyway, it doesn't even matter any more. The President is in effect saying that the war is lost. Trying to find a political solution when the enemy is not only undefeated, but stronger than ever, is basically capitulation. You win, Taliban! Let's look forward to seeing the executions of "collaborators" on Youtube, stonings and a new safe haven for terrorists. And just maybe, a new 9/11.

        • Jim_C

          So we were supposed to…what? Supply Afghanistan with tens of thousands of soldiers for 25 more years because there's a chance that someone, there, might be plotting another 9/11? Why?

          Give me a break.

          • Xerxes

            The first thing would be not to put soldiers on the ground there in the first place. It was not like NATO wasn't warned back then. The Russians said it would be a huge mistake, and I knew from day one that this was a very bad idea. Now, with thousands of soldiers dead and who knows how much money, NATO/ISAF is de facto defeated by a gang of bearded ignoramuses. The whole world can see that. It is a huge victory for Islamic radicals and a gigantic loss of prestige that may be the beginning of the end of NATO. Not quite what we wanted, was it? And how easily it could have been avoided.

            What to do next, I don't know. I guess whatever it takes. We have the means but apparently not the will. That's all I have to say.

          • Jim_C

            I wouldn't call it a loss because I don't think there was ever a "win" on the other side because we were never really at war with a country. When you fight another country, you can beat that other country–that's where the "will" comes into play. We're fighting people who don't wear uniforms, who hide in plain sight, have no allegiance to any political body.

            But I think our armed forces got invaluable real world experience and our intelligence corps got a treasure trove of info. Plus we accomplished some good. These are exactly the things we'll need going forward fighting Islamic terrorism. Things we did not have going into it.

          • Rifleman

            When you leave the battlefield to the enemy, you lose, they win.

  • mrbean

    Obama's plan is a "Cut and Run" strategy disguised as a phased withdrawal. Democrats are great at losing wars, like Harry Truman in did in Korea, like the post-watergate Democrats did in South Vietnam and Cambodia by cutting off all aid and support the US promised at the Paris Peace talks, like Clinton did in Somolia and Osama bin Laden decided the United States is a paper tiger and no less than 18 major terrorist acts occurred.

    Now we have our own Secretary of State bad mouthing her own country abroad. MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is questioning the priorities of lawmakers criticizing the U.S. intervention in Libya. She's asking bluntly, "Whose side are you on?"

    Ahhhh,,, errr… whose side were you and your husband Bill Clinton on during the Vietnam war Mrs Clinton?

    • Jim_C

      Cut and run…sounds good. Let's do it yesterday. Leave a sign on the door that says "You're welcome! P.S. Don't blow anything of our up or we'll be back and we won't be building you schools, this time."

  • vlparker

    It's time to get out of Afghanistan and fight the jihad that is going on at home. We can stay in Afghanistan for the next 50 years and I would bet that it would still be the stone age country that it has always been and the Taliban would come back when we leave.

    Meanwhile, we have a muslim supremacist enclave in Dearborn, Michigan, honor killings being swept under the rug, an FBI that won't hire Jews as arabic translators because muslims complain about it, foot baths in airports and on and on and on.

    We are never going to turn Afghanistan into a western style republic. We would be much better off working at home to undo the foothold Islam has gained in the US and helping to preserve Israel, the lone bastion of freedom in the Middle East.

  • Chezwick_mac

    I heard a talking head on the news express his opposition to Obama's withdrawal in this way: "We need two more years, two more fighting seasons, to beat back the Taliban and stabilize the regime."

    I thought to myself, what planet is he living on?…(and his ideas are certainly not atypical inside the Pentagon). Does he actually believe that by degrading the Taliban for two more years, they WON'T reconstitute themselves afterwards? Does he know ANYTHING about the concept of 'prolonged popular war'?

    I agree with Obama and the proponents of withdrawal. It's time to leave. Afghanistan is an endless quagmire. The only difference between the Prez and myself is that I have no illusions that withdrawal will ENHANCE our security. Afghanistan will once again become the playground of terrorists…and new 9-11s will be plotted from there.

    But the fact is, we're broke….(though so many are still in denial). One of the prerequisites for successfully selling to our own people the termination of their entitlement goodies will be the dismantling of empire abroad. Welcome to our ugly new reality.

  • TheTavernKeeper

    Welp Xerxes is an intelligent fellow. The rest of ya….eh. Jim_C maybe because he makes a fair point. Couple things though : 1. Obama doesn't need any help for election times. Republicans got nobody and they won't have anybody. Its already won. 2. If you are making the argument about winning or losing a war, you have a few issues. War isn't a game or a sport, it's simply a way for old white guys to get rich while making the people who can't afford to pay for a war pick up the check.

  • tagalog

    Another Obama quote to ponder: in last night's speech, as he was talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, he said that he wished for Americans to recapture the post 9/11 mood of working in a common cause, then he justified that by saying that it's our differences that make us strong.

    What the hell do those two contradictory sentiments have to do with each other? Obama just says a bunch of junk and hopes that his ability to deliver a good speech with see him through. He's just a sophomoric jerk.

  • Wesley69

    Where was the word, victory, in the President's speech. It wasn't there. Only that by 2014, the US will be out of Afghanistan. Is history repeating itself??? Didn't the US withdraw from Vietnam in a similar fashion. We're already negotiating with the Taliban, just like we did the North Vietnamese. AND THIS WAS THE GOOD WAR!!!!

    The President lack of experience is showing. He is willing to throw away the gains of the surge for political benefit. He will lose Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has the US in a totally unnecessary war in Libya.

    Mr. President, you are either in it to win or PULL OUT ALL THE TROOPS BEFORE ANYMORE ARE LOST. There is no middleground.

  • Fred Dawes

    This will end in nothing but a blood bath.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      That's perfectly fine with me as long as it is the direct result of Muslim on Muslim violence and the more violence and the bloodier the merrier. In fact, to this day I still can’t understand why we didn’t limit our mission in Afghanistan to the obliteration of OBL and AQ only in retaliation for 9/11 and then get out of that unforgiving hellhole ASAP, instead of jumping into the middle of a jihad between the Sharia compliant Northern Alliance and the Sharia compliant Taliban we had no business getting mixed up in and for what, to pursue a silly fantasy based nation-building mission that couldn’t be more unhinged.

      Meanwhile, Iran has continued its march to nuclear weapons with impunity, and Pakistan, mostly with the 2 billion dollars in American foreign aid per year, has been allowed to exponentially increase its nuclear weapons arsenal and nuclear weapons program.

      The reality is our federal government and our military establishment couldn’t be any more incompetent or inept than it is.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    And by withdrawing combat forces while the security situation is still unstable in key parts of the country, the president is gambling that the Afghan army and police can step up and perform up to expectations – something they have failed to do up to this point.

    I could care less whether the Sharia compliant Afghan army and police can hold off the Sharia compliant Taliban, as Muslim on Muslim violence to me, because I’m not blinded by idiotic political correctness with respect to Islam, would be a far better outcome for the West, and the more violence the better. Hence, unlike Shaun Hannity and many other clueless neo-cons. I could care less if the Taliban takes over Afghanistan again, which is inevitable in any event as the goal of the war was always exceedingly fantasy-based. Hey, they were fighting a jihad when we needlessly intervened. Thus, let them resume the jihad again when we leave and hope at the same time that it last as long as possible, as the longer and the bloodier the better as for as I’m concerned.

    Indeed, I could never figure out why or how the US became sidetracked in the first place into pursuing a silly fantasy based nation-building mission in Afghanistan to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, which incidentally is entirely impossible altogether because Muslims are obligated to have nothing but enmity in their hearts for unbelievers.

    In fact, when we were preparing to occupy Afghanistan for the now apparent purpose of pursuing silly fantasy based nation building, I remember thinking at the time that that distraction would lead to OBL escaping, and in fact a few days later my greatest fear materialized when OBL did indeed escape.

    Then the other day I heard Robert Gates saying on Fox News that when it comes to pulling out of Afghanistan prematurely, the American people should look at the big picture and factor in the cost of losing in Afghanistan, because according to Gates, America can’t afford anymore 9/11s, as Gates claims that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were the inevitable result of the US pulling out of Afghanistan prematurely in 1989.

    In other words, according to Gates, the American government, and our entire military establishment, the cause of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a direct result of the US pulling out of Afghanistan, according to them, prematurely in 1989, and if indeed that is the position of all the aforementioned, then it couldn’t be anymore obvious to me that our entire federal government couldn’t be anymore unhinged, self-hating, and incompetent.

    Yet, all you hear today from neo-cons is let the generals make the call, but what if the generals and our entire military establishment are all incompetent and inept? Indeed, if we are occupying Afghanistan to win the hearts and minds of Muslims that are obligated to hate our unbeliever guts no matter what, then it couldn’t be more obvious that our entire military establishment is more than just a little incompetent.

    Anyway, if anyone is naïve, stupid, dumb, and clueless enough to believe that Sharia states like we helped to establish in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain loyal friends and allies of the USA instead of inevitably becoming our eternal enemies when we finally leave, then I have a bridge I need to sell to those unhinged loons.

    Indeed, I constantly hear all the time the surge in Iraq being touted as a major success and General Petraeus being praised as a glorious hero, but if Iraq is a victory thanks to the success of the surge, then why were American companies deliberately blackballed from receiving any oil contracts? Why are Christians and other unbelievers living in Iraq being violently oppressed and systematically persecuted when not outright slaughtered altogether? Why does the government of Iraq refuse to allow US military bases to remain in Iraq? Why is Iraq extremely hostile to Israel exactly like all other Islamic states? Indeed, why did Iraq recently announce that it would seek much closer military ties with Iran later this year to increase the security of the region? Indeed, if Iraq is the definition of success and victory today, then it couldn’t be clearer to me that our federal government and military establishment couldn’t be more incompetent.

    In addition, the notion that Afghanistan and Iraq will become terrorist havens if we leave prematurely is also utterly absurd. Indeed, the entire Islamic world is a terrorist haven and breeding ground for terrorists, which, by the way, really isn’t terrorism but instead violent jihad, as jihad against unbelievers for the spread of Islam is the sixth and most important pillar of Islam.

    I have news for Robert Gates and our American military establishment, but we weren’t attacked on 9/11 because the US left Afghanistan prematurely in 1989. Instead, we were attacked because we are unbelievers and because we stupidly allowed millions of Muslim stealth jihadists to immigrate and infiltrate our country. In fact, if we didn’t have any Muslim immigrants, really stealth jihadists, living in America as a fifth column on 9/11, not only would the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been completely impossible, but any further Islamic terrorist attacks today on America’s homeland would also be completely impossible.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    But clearly, the overriding reason for the faster pace of withdrawal than that recommended by military commanders is due to the genuine war weariness of the American people,

    I’m not weary of war and I’m not an unhinged self-hating anarcho-kook like Ron Paul. Indeed, I fully understand that freedom must be protected and defended at all cost, but unhinged fantasy based nation-building missions to win the hearts and minds of Muslims who are obligated per Islam to hate our unbeliever guts no matter what isn’t protecting and defending freedom, it is shear utter unhinged insanity! In fact, our two fantasy based nation-building missions in Afghanistan and Iraq were not only mistakes, they were the two greatest strategic blunders in American history.

    Senator Lindsey Graham said, “We’ve undercut a strategy that was working.

    Senator Graham and his two unhinged amigos, John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, have always been unhinged when it came to Afghanistan and Iraq and a lot of other dumb things as well. In fact, I would love to see both Senators Graham and McCain kicked out of the Republican Party. Let them go screw up someone else’s party for a change.

    Pawlenty urged the president to follow the advice of General Petreaus and “get those [Afghanistan] security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.”

    With respect to Pawlenty’s campaign for president, as for as I’m concerned Pawlenty is out, exactly because of his unhinged stances on Libya and Afghanistan. He doesn’t have the first clue and I can’t see myself voting for another incompetent loon for president. In fact, I may end up not voting at all again like I did the last time when McCain won the Republican nomination. I’m sorry but I can’t vote for someone I know that is incompetent, even as bad as Obama is. Indeed, repeatedly voting for the lesser of two evils is exactly the reason America is in the sad position it is in today.

  • Wesley69

    We tried this in Vietnam. It was called Vietnamization. It worked until Congress cut the military aid to South Vietnam and forbade the use of US B-52's to punish North Vietnam for violation of the Paris Peace Accords. We, also, gave up any thought of winning, just like in Afghanistan.

    The similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam is uncanny. But the truth is, if you are not in it to win, then it is time to withdraw before any more of our soldiers are killed.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      How could we win in Afghanistan? Please describe what victory would look like in Afghanistan? Don’t forget that thanks to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a Muslim who successfully infiltrated our State Department and got subsequently appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan and then subsequently Ambassador to Iraq, Sharia was enshrined in each country’s respective constitutions, making both countries Sharia states for all intents and purposes. Hence, since Sharia mandates Muslims to wage jihad against unbelievers for the spread of Islam, the idea that either country will remain loyal friends and allies with the USA is utterly absurd.

  • Wesley69

    ObamaYaMoma, your point is a good one and I will try to answer it.

    What will need to be done, the US will not do. One thing, we don't do is announce when we will leave and give the Afghans a reason not to trust us because in time we will be gone and they will be on their own.

    It means letting the military fight the war with having any hands tied behind their back.
    It means closing madrases in the country that preach anti-Americanism.
    It means supporting a freely elected government that is not corrupt. Corruption needs to be unrooted from the government.
    It means providing government services and protection to the Afghans.
    It may require that tribal chiefs in various proviences are granted more power to govern their area. This would mean a federalization of the country.
    It means involving the living standards of the Afghans.
    It means establishing a code of justice without the harsh penalties of Sharia, to protect women.
    It means establishing a school system to educate the young.
    It means bombing the sancturies and training camps in Pakistan. It may mean providing incentives to get the Pakistan government to help us instead of playing both sides.

    As I said this is what victory would look like, but the question is whether it is worth it. Afghanization of the war could succeed, if the US has the time to train the Afghan army and gradually expand its control over larger areas of the country. US aid in the form of military equipment would need to be provided. US bombers would still be needed to take out enemy forces.

    Is it worth it? We have been there since 2002. Bush did take his eye off the ball and should have pacified the country while he had the support of the country and the world. The war in Iraq took away from that effort. Nation-building is difficult to do, but trying to do it in two countries is almost impossilbe. I hope we will not being doing it in Egypt or Libya.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Uhm…study Islam. Everything you listed and said are impossible to achieve in Sharia Islamic states like Afghanistan and Iraq and indeed are exceedingly fantasy based. Hence, why should we continue pursuing what is in reality a fantasy based nation-building mission that is not only getting our troops killed for nothing, but is also needlessly costing the taxpayers of this country hundreds of billions of dollars while at the same time destroying the will of the American people. Meanwhile, at the same time Iran continues its march to nuclear weapons with impunity and Pakistan is poised to become the nuclear supermarket for the Sunni Islamic world as soon as Iran renders the NPT not worth the paper it was signed on.

      The harsh reality is our military establishment is completely incompetent because of political correctness they failed the first rule of war, which is to know your enemy as well as you know yourself, and in that respect our military establishment has failed big time. Indeed, what is particularly disturbing is almost 10 years after 9/11 they still don’t have the first clue with respect to the true nature of the enemy we are facing and what to do.

      The fact of the matter is the two silly fantasy based nation-building missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are not only just mistakes, but in reality they are the two biggest strategic blunders in the history of the USA.

      Indeed, Iraq recently announced to the world that as soon as the remainder of US troops are pulled out of Iraq at the end of the year, that the Iraq military would closely align with the military of Iran to protect the security of the region. Do you still believe the surge in Iraq was successful and that the fantasy based nation-building mission to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in Iraq is a victory and was well worth the price, because if you do, then obviously you are as incompetent as our military establishment.

      Finally, with respect to nation building missions, they should always be avoided like the plague under any and all circumstances, and with respect to nation-building missions in Islamic countries, it is literally insane and extremely suicidal, as Muslims are obligated to hate our unbeliever guts no matter what. Indeed, Bush promised never to deploy US troops in nation building missions, then as soon as he was elected like the stealth leftist he really was, that loon deployed our troops in two endless fantasy based nation-building missions the first chance he got, and both of those two endless fantasy based nation-building missions are the two biggest strategic blunders in American history.

  • Wesley69

    Your points are well taken. I think I pointed out the US will not see the face of victory in those countries. But I would not blame our militarty for the PC war. That is the fault of both administrations. And I agree about nation-building, particularly among Muslim nations. On this point I have been convinced by what I have seen over the years. My previous post said "what will need to be done the US will not do." We will not succeed in creating western style democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not have tried. We need to think in terms of national interest. The following are other posts that should explain my thinking.

    So what can the infidels (us) do? Good question. For starters, the infidel must realize this is a contest that he can't afford to lose. It is us or them, therefore, compromises with the true believers will be viewed by them as weakness. If attacked, the infidels must respond with overwhelming force, if necessary, but they must be made to pay for their attacks. All weapons must be used. If pork is something that will frightening the believers with uncleanliess, you use it. Weakening the will of the enemy by shrinking the necessities of life, food, water, shelter, will go a long way toward killing that fighting spirit. Understand this, the enemy will always hate you. Don't bother with being nice. Elimination of all religious centers that spread the hatred must be done as well.

    Within this country and other countries laws need to be passed to elimate the practice of Sharia Law within the infidel's territory. Here is a Constitutional Amendment that would insure that religious law does not become civil law in the US.

    WHILE ALL CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO CHOICE WITH REGARD TO RELIGION, PRACTICES THAT; COERCE BELIEF, INDOCTRINATE THE YOUTH, THAT PHYSICALLY OR MONETARILY HARM AN INDIVIDUAL, WHICH ARE IN CONFLICET WITH A CITIZEN'S RIGHTS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION ARE FORBIDDEN.
    NOR SHOULD RELIGIOUS LAW BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR UNITED STATES CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAW IN FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL COURTS."

    In another post I give the Iso-Doctrine. The US will not play world policeman by itself any longer. Unless there is a commitment by another country, the US will not honor an alliance. We will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. That day is over. However, if we are attacked, we will respond with proportionate force or maximum force, whatever is required. There will be no money for nation-building. If you are bombed into the Stone Age, that's where you stay.

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