Exit Strategy

President Obama meets with Hamid Karzai in 2010. Source: Pete Souza

On Friday, January 12, after talks with Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, the Obama Administration said it would speed up its withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s plan is for the Afghan security forces, long trained for the defense of their own country by U.S. troops, to handle the direct combat role that U.S. forces currently fill. President Obama said that he intends that  the Afghan security will take over “the lead for security” and he calls for a “further reduction of coalition forces.”

In this way, the intention is for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan with capabilities that will promote the long term stability of the country. The proposed acceleration of the troop withdrawal comes amid waning support for the war in Afghanistan among the American people. In a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 69% of responders said they opposed the war in Afghanistan. This figure is even more shocking when just four months ago, the percentage of responders who opposed the war was just 53%.

The problem with this strategy of withdrawal so soon is twofold. The first is that the Karzai government in Kabul is very corrupt. President Obama mentioned it when he said Afghanistan needs to become a “responsible international actor”, noting that “Afghanistan still has work to do to accomplish these goals”. The criticism of the current Afghan government doesn’t just come from America, however. Karzai himself responded to the question of whether he find’s the steps Afghanistan has taken to clean up it’s government with “Of course not.” The other reason why this issue shouldn’t be rushed is that the Afghan security forces are too weak to fight on it’s own without American support. A new Pentagon Report found that only one of the Afghan National Army’s 23 brigades could operate without the support of U.S. and coalition forces.

Another important factor to consider is the emergence of green-on-blue attacks in the past couple of months. Green-on-blue attacks are attacks from insurgents dressed as Afghan security who ambush coalition forces. As of November 2012, “The killing of at least 52 coalition forces this year by Afghan soldiers and police — or insurgents wearing their uniforms — has made many wary of the possibility that someone they are working alongside could try to kill them.” These types of attacks demoralize the American public further and underscore the weakness of the Afghan Security Forces.

The specific details of the eventual complete drawback of American troops in Afghanistan were not discussed.

Sources

Just Foreign Policy. “10 Facts About US Withdrawal from Afghanistan” (2013).

Lee, Carol E. and Entous, Adam. Wall Street Journal. “Obama to Speed Troop Exit” (2013).

Bumiller, Elisabeth. New York Times. “Pentagon Says Afghan Forces Still Need Assistance” (2013).

Lamothe, Dan. USA Today. “’Green on Blue’ attacks lead to Afghan security changes” (2012).

Gizzi, John. Human Events. “Obama, Karzai addresses Afghan government corruption” (2013).

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