Tuesday, January 8, 2013

US may leave no troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, "Afghan good enough" is "good enough!"

New York Times Washington correspondent, David Sanger, the author of a book, which discusses among other things, the Obama administration's handling of the Afghan War, appeared in an interview earlier this year. Sanger noted that when President Obama ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009, with a set timetable for withdrawal, he did so with the stated intention, that win or lose, the troops would be withdrawn by the set deadline.

This sad notation from Mr. Sanger prompted a panel discussion as to whether the President's decision to send troops to the battlefield with a "win or lose" timetable for withdrawal was "conscionable" or not; if the President wasn't firmly committed to "winning" the conflict, why send the troops into harm's way?

Mr. Sanger went on to say that one of the President's goals in Afghanistan was to keep the city of Kabul from falling. But this "does not necessarily mean that other parts of the country might not fall into Taliban control", he said, adding that "it seems fairly likely that a few years from now, we will see some parts of the country that are significantly under Taliban control."

"Conscionable"? Good grief!

Likewise the New York Times reported at the time that the White House had "lowered the bar on how success is defined in the Afghan war."

The Times reported that the phrase "Afghan Good Enough" had been making the rounds at the White House and State Department.

"Gone is the much greater expectation that NATO will leave behind a cohesive central government with real influence beyond Kabul and a handful of other population centers," the Times reported. "Gone is the assumption that Helmand Province, Kandahar and the rest of the heavily contested south — where the bulk of the 2010 influx of troops was sent — will remain entirely in the control of the central government once that area is transferred to Afghanistan's fledgling national security forces."

Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, appearing in an interview earlier this year, was asked about the White House's latest catchphrase, "Afghan Good Enough". Gen. Allen insisted that, contrary to the White House's assertion - "Afghan Good Enough" is not "good enough."

"We're all sacrificing way too much for something that is "Afghan good enough", the General said.

Sadly, the White House disagrees with this sentiment.

In a related development, the AP reported on Tuesday that "the U.S. might leave no American troops in Afghanistan after the end of combat in December 2014."
Administration officials said publicly for the first time Tuesday that the U.S. might leave no American troops in Afghanistan after the end of combat in December 2014, an option that defies the view of Pentagon officials who say thousands of U.S. troops could be needed there to keep a lid on Al Qaeda and to strengthen the Afghan army and police.

"The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of `X' number of troops in Afghanistan," said Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser...

Asked in a conference call with reporters whether zero was now an option, Rhodes said, "That would be an option we would consider."
But aside from the question as to whether the President would prefer a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan or not, Obama's top White House military adviser on Afghanistan, Doug Lute, noted on Tuesday that the Afghans will have to give the U.S. certain "authorities" [the troops would have to be granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan laws] if it wants U.S. troops to remain.

"If there are no authorities granted by the sovereign state, then there's not room for a follow-on U.S. military mission," Lute said. Hence, the White House has an additional pretext at its disposal for pursuing its "Afghan Good Enough" exit strategy and implementing a complete troop withdrawal.

The Washington Post notes that "some in the administration are pressing for a residual force that could be as small as 2,500..."
Those troop levels are significantly lower than what some senior military officials have advocated, arguing that a sudden disengagement could lead to the collapse of a frail state and the onset of a new civil war. The low number also is a far cry from figures in the 10,000-to-30,000 range discussed among NATO allies and some U.S. officials as recently as a year ago...

Some senior military officials and analysts have pressed for a more robust force, arguing that a hasty disengagement would be reckless and could lead the country’s security forces to crumble. The United States has invested $50 billion in training and equipping the Afghan army and police...

The troop levels under serious consideration [by the Obama administration] range between 2,500 and 6,000, a senior defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential deliberations.

A second senior military official involved in Afghan policy said officials at the Pentagon have all but given up hope for a post-2014 force of at least 10,000, which some commanders had deemed the bare minimum...

A force of a few thousand would have limited impact, given Afghanistan’s forbidding topography, resilient insurgency and weak government.

“You’ll end up doing nothing outside of Kabul,” a senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan said, referring to the 2,500 figure.

With 6,000, the United States would retain the capability to run Bagram Air Base, a key hub outside the capital. But that could leave the United States without a military presence in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban’s heartland and the focus of Obama’s troop surge.

“It would mean walking away from commitments we made in 2009 and 2010,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jim Dubik, who argued... that an international force of some 30,000 troops is needed to keep the Afghan security forces afloat.
Bottom line: "Afghan good enough" is certainly "good enough"; just ask the President and Chuck Hagel, they can attest to that fact......

Video: Panel discusses Obama's 'unconscionable', "win or lose" timetable for U.S troops in Afghanistan

Video: Gen. John Allen vs. the White House: Is 'Afghan Good Enough', good enough?

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