Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Obama: Afghanistan Mission Accomplished?

The President is hinting at a declare-victory-and-leave strategy, once proposed for Vietnam and more recently for Iraq, to end our decade-long war in Afghanistan.

In a TV interview, he says, “By killing Osama bin Laden, getting al Qaeda back on its heels, stabilizing much of the country in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can't take it's now time for us to recognize that we've accomplished a big chunk of our mission and that it's time for Afghans to take more responsibility."

There will be no banners on aircraft carriers, but as Robert Gates leaves and Leon Panetta arrives as Secretary of Defense in the face of the troop drawdowns scheduled this summer when the “Surge” began at the end of 2009, the stars seem aligned for rethinking our mission there.

Add the pressures of public fatigue with the war, a temptation of huge budget savings and the shifting Middle East picture with Arab Spring uprisings, the original motives for waging the War on Terror in Afghanistan seem to have faded into some distant past.

Just as in Iraq, there is no just-get-up-and-go option, but a tipping point is clearly on the horizon. When he sent more troops, the President said, "If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow."

It’s clearly time to revisit that question, as well as our broader immersion in Middle East conflicts, and it’s reassuring that President seems ready to do just that.

Update: Right on cue, a two-year Congressional study finds U.S. attempts at nation-building in Afghanistan have had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal.

The report cites “a tidal wave of funding” that local officials are incapable of “spending wisely,” a polite way to describe rampant corruption.

As Paul Ryan and the GOP try to hack away Medicare for American seniors, they may want to ponder the fact that foreign military and development spending now provide 97 percent of Afghan gross domestic product, and guess-who is paying most of it.

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