Thoughts of Draw Down in Post-Osama Afghanistan

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One area where policy makers are hoping bin Laden’s death will alter our fortunes is the ongoing — and so far futile — effort to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. General Petreaus believes that getting the Afghan government and the Taliban to reach a negotiated settlement is the quickest way out for American troops. But there has yet to be a group of Taliban leaders willing to sit down with President Karzai and negotiate an end to the war.

In the end, the decision on how many men to bring home and when is a political decision. The Pentagon believes that the bulk of troops sent during the surge should stay through the summer, which is the fighting season in Afghanistan. Complicating that notion is the fact that there are many in the administration who want to bring the bulk of our soldiers home before the 2012 election, which would almost certainly mean a much faster withdrawal than the Pentagon would like.

They may want to rethink that political equation after the death of bin Laden. An ABC poll last December found that by a 60-34% margin, the American people thought the war in Afghanistan had not been worth it. But a recent poll taken by the Washington Post and Pew Research after Osama bin Laden’s death shows that 64% of Americans expect success in Afghanistan, up from 49% in December.

This may give the president some political breathing room in the coming debate. If he is so inclined, he can use this boost in support to pretty much stay the course for another 6 months with a minimal number of troops rotated out. With the Taliban beginning it’s “spring offensive,” that may be the wisest course.

But the president must deal with a liberal base that has been agitating for a quick and total withdrawal from Afghanistan. Obama has indicated he wants “significant” withdrawals beginning in July and the liberals would no doubt see a 10% reduction for the rest of the year as a betrayal.

Even if the president low-balls the number of troops we will withdraw this year, it won’t stop a movement in Congress to redefine the War on Terror by altering the original “Authorization for the Use Military Force” or AUMF. Many on the Hill believe that the death of Osama bin Laden has closed a chapter in the war that began with 9/11, and that since AUMF was passed in 2001, the nature and scope of the enemy has changed dramatically. In addition to fighting the remnants of al-Qaeda, other terrorist groups have emerged as a threat to our national security and the AUMF should be amended to reflect that fact.

“It’s been a decade….Bin Laden is gone. We need to update the law,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX). He and other Republicans are trying to amend AUMF to include specific authorization for the president to take prisoners. It also drops any reference to 9/11 and includes the Taliban and “associated forces” as entities with which the US is at war.

There is some agreement that it may be necessary to amend AUMF. A “senior administration official” told Politico that there was some sympathy at the White House for changing the language of the resolution. “As an intellectual policy matter you can make a very good argument for doing that [but] there are divisions,” within the administration, he said.

Some liberals are arguing that the Republicans want to declare war. Others believe that by widening the scope of AUMF, it would transfer war making power to the White House from Congress.

However the effort to amend AUMF turns out, the death of Osama bin Laden will continue to affect our policy in Afghanistan and the way in which we fight al-Qaeda and its imitators for years to come.

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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  • Chezwick_mac

    It's time to leave both Afghanistan and Iraq…not because doing so will enhance America's security in any way, but simply because we're broke and can no longer afford to play the world's policeman. Reality is a cold, hard pill that our policymakers refuse to swallow.

    • USMCSniper

      Then what? What if Iran invades Iraq starts a civil war with the Sunnis and takes over the oil? What if the Taliban take over again and set up al Qaeda training camps? I suppose you will use Obama's answer that "We will go just back in."

      • Chezwick_mac

        Do you actually believe we are going to prevail in Afghanistan? The Taliban are waging the 'prolonged popular war' made famous by Chairman Mao. They can and will fight a low-intensity insurgency indefinitely…and will bleed us dry in the process. Tribalism is so culturally-ingrained in the Afghan consciousness that NO central government – whatever its stripes – will ever be accepted nationwide. As for Al Qaeda setting up the camps, they exist in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. By your logic, we should invade all these countries too.

        As for Iraq, ideally, we can reach an agreement for US air-force bases to protect Iraq from foreign invasion. But the Iraqis will probably reject such an offer. And I seriously doubt the Iranians – with all their domestic problems – will attempt an invasion of their neighbor (though continued subversion is a certainty).

        I appreciate where you are coming from. I used to make the same arguments against proponents of withdrawal. The difference between them and myself is that THEY felt withdrawal would somehow ENHANCE our security; I'm under no such illusions. But we're broke…we're borrowing Chinese money to prosecute these wars. It's absurd. We'll never be able to sell the dismantling of the 'entitlement state' here at home for as long as we're playing empire abroad.

      • ObamaYoMoma

        It’s going to happen anyway. Are you really so naïve that you would believe that the Sharia states we helped to established in Afghanistan and Iraq are going to remain loyal friends and reliable allies to the USA after we leave? If you do, I have a bridge I need to sell for you. Just wait till you see the price, you won’t believe it.

        • USMCSniper

          I guess then there is only the Marine Corps solution: "Kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out!"

  • tagalog

    If we aren't going to fight to win in Afghanistan, we should not have a military presence there. Same with Iraq.

    In Afghanistan, it's not very hard to define victory: eliminate the Taliban as a force in the country. If we're not going to do that, get out.

    Our military is great at closing with our enemies and destroying them. Our military is terrible at peacekeeping and nation-building.

  • Will

    With the death of bin Laden the United States has a historic opportunity to rethink its approach to a $120 billion a year war that is adding significantly to the national debt without adding to our national security. It is time to bring America’s engagement in Afghanistan back into balance with its interests there…and it can be done for far less than $120 billion a year. More and more conservatives see the struggling economy and excessive borrowing for decade-long wars as the greatest threat to America’s national security.

    Ann Coulter, for one, recognizes that this war is “bleeding us dry” with no strategic benefit. You can find Coulter’s thoughts on Afghanistan here:

    So why isn’t the Republican leadership showing decisiveness in taking a stand on wasteful spending in Afghanistan and offering a policy alternative to Obama's failed status quo?

  • Jim_C

    Why isn't Republican leadership showing decisiveness?

    Because Republican leadership at least knows that people will remember who got us into this mess in the first place. Now that it is fashionable, safe, and politically expedient for everyday conservatives to call these wars what they always were, their representatives are stuck. They were for the war before they were against it.

    • USMCSniper

      Because their leadership is alot like Bob Dole, tough talk in front of a microphone and wimpout when it comes to action. I don't like men like Bob Dole or Boehner who "tear up" put into leadership positions – they don't have the staying power when the going gets tough.

    • Chezwick_mac

      The world is a better place because Saddam is gone and the Taliban are displaced. Our problem is not the righteousness of our cause (as liberals like yourself insist), it is the limitations of our resources.

      • Jim_C

        "Righteousness?" How about practicality? How about the notion nation-building in a place where the idea of a "nation," itself, is random, is not a proper use of our military resources?

        • Chezwick_mac

          Valid point. But what would YOUR idea of an appropriate response to 9-11 be? An international conference?

  • ObamaYoMoma

    We need to get out of Afghanistan, not because we finally killed OBL, but instead because the nation-building mission has been extremely fantasy-based from the very get go and also exceedingly counterproductive. For instance, both so-called democracies we helped to establish in Afghanistan and Iraq are in fact de facto Sharia states, and Sharia mandates among many things, that jihad be waged against unbelievers for the spread of Islam. Hence, if anyone believes that either Afghanistan or Iraq will somehow remain a loyal friend and reliable ally after we leave, then I have a bridge for sale I need to sell them.

    Not only that but Sharia mandates that Muhammadans have nothing but enmity in their hearts for unbelievers. Thus, why are we over there wasting trillions of dollars and American lives trying the win the hearts and minds of people who are obligated to hate our unbeliever guts no matter what?

    The problem is not terrorism, the problem is Islam, yet every chance they got, both Bush and Obama have gone out of their way to assure the Islamic world that America is not at war with Islam. Nevertheless, the dirty little secret that our federal government and politicians avoid like the plague is if not for the presence of millions of Muhammadans with thousands of mosques and madrassas already living in this country, the 9/11 terrorists attacks would have been completely impossible. Yet we have wasted thousands of lives and over 1.5 trillion dollars pursuing fantasy based nation building missions with no chance in hell of being successful, all at the same time that Bush, like a Dhimmicrat on steroids, doubled the size of the federal government, ostensibly to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks, but in reality to continue accommodating mass Muhammadan immigration with all of its excess baggage. Meanwhile, Muhammadan immigration without a single exception has turned into an unmitigated disaster for the host countries in every case.