Saturday, November 27, 2010

Afghanistan: Digging in

By Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom FoundationNovember 26, 2010


President Obama once said withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011 — maybe, conditions permitting. But then he backed off that date. Now NATO, echoing American officials, says security won’t be fully turned over to the Afghan government any earlier than the end of 2014 — again, maybe; the alliance has signed a long-term security agreement with the Afghan president. Allied troops thus will remain in Afghanistan — as occupiers always say — in a supporting role beyond 2014 and even 2015. Calling the December 31, 2014, an “aspirational goal,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “It does not mean that all U.S. or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date.” 

Even before Obama backed off the 2011 timetable and before the NATO summit, Gen. David Petraeus had told Bob Woodward, “You have to recognize that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” And Defense Secretary Robert Gates went even further, telling Woodward: “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely. In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.” 

Thus no one seems to take target dates or even aspirational goals very seriously. The U.S. national-security apparatus is planted in Afghanistan and appears in no hurry to leave. 

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