What to make of Obama's Afghan pullout
President Obama declared Wednesday that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, setting in motion a substantial withdrawal of American troops in an acknowledgement of the shifting threat in the region and fast-changing political and economic landscape in a war-weary America.
Umm... what goals? Isn't that the problem? They were never clearly articulated. The Taliban was removed from power, yes, but that was before Obama became president.
So what was the point?
A stable, democratic Afghanistan? Well, that's not the case?
Just stable? Again, not so much -- not with most of the country largely lawless and with Karzai being little more than mayor of Kabul.
The destruction of al Qaeda and the Taliban? Well, Osama may be dead, but America's enemies linger still. They may not be able to use Afghanistan the way they used to, but, again, that was achieved long before 2008.
Ah, Obama says, the "tide of war is receding," and Afghanistan no longer poses a terrorist threat. But it hasn't for some time.
Look, I'm not saying that the war needs to continue. I've been against it for a long time now. But it's pretty ridiculous essentially to declare victory and to say that the goals have been achieved. The president can only say that because the goals were never clear in the first place, nor when he ramped up the war with more troops, with an Iraq-like "surge."
So we need to ask again: What was it all for?
Or does it not matter anymore, what with the 2012 campaign underway and domestic political considerations weighing even more heavily than before?
Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 "surge" of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the troop reductions would continue "at a steady pace" until the United States handed over security to the Afghan authorities in 2014.
Well, that's fine, even if it means three more years of war. But let's see what actually happens, and whether he sticks to the plan. Because, as Think Progress notes, the withdrawal of about 30,000 troops by 2012 would still leave more troops in Afghgnistan than were there when he took over the presidency.
So what should we make of Obama's Afghan pullout? Not much. Yet.