Obama Accelerates Transition of Security to Afghans

AfghanistanObama, eager to turn the page after more than a decade of war, said Friday that beginning this spring American forces would play supporting role in Afghanistan, which opens way for a more rapid withdrawal of the troops. Though Mr. Obama said he had not yet decided on the specific troop levels for the rest of the year, he said United States would accelerate the transition of security responsibilities to Afghans, which had been set to occur at middle of the year, because of gains by the Afghan forces. Mr. Obama also made it clear that he planned to leave relatively few troops in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014, those forces would be narrowly focused on advising and training Afghan troops and hunting down the remnants of Al Qaeda. “That is a very limited mission, and it is not one that would require same kind of footprint, obviously, that we’ve had over last 10 years in Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said after a meeting with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, at the White House. It was the first face-to-face encounter of the two leaders since May, and it underscored the quickening pace at which United States is winding down its involvement in Afghanistan. War in Afghanistan was discussed in only general terms during the election campaign, but a series of decisions on troop levels and other issues is to be settled in the coming weeks and months. Karzai raised no public objections to troop cuts, saying he had obtained two important concessions from United States: the transfer of prisons housing terrorism suspects to Afghan control, and the pullout of the American troops from Afghan villages this spring. Brushing aside questions about residual American troop levels, Karzai said: “Numbers are not going to make a difference to the situation in Afghanistan. It’s the broader relationship will make a difference to Afghanistan and beyond in the region.” Mr. Karzai also said he would push to grant legal immunity to American troops left behind in Afghanistan, a guarantee United States failed to obtain from Iraq, leading Mr. Obama to withdraw all but a vestigial force from that country at the end of 2011. Mr. Obama’s signaling of deeper troop cuts to come appeared to run counter to the approach favored by Gen. John R. Allen, the senior American commander in Afghanistan. 2 American officials said in November that General Allen wanted to retain a significant military capacity through fighting season that ends this fall. Other military experts raised concerns that United States might forfeit some of its hard-won gains if it moved to shrink its forces in Afghanistan too quickly. James M. Dubik, a retired Army lieutenant general who led effort to train the Iraqi Army and is a senior fellow at Institute for the Study of War, a nongovernmental research group, said accelerating the effort to put Afghan forces in the lead, and the cuts in the Americans troops are expected to follow, posed risks. “There will be insufficient combat power to finish the counteroffensive against the Haqqani network in the east,” he said, referring to the militant group that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/world/asia/us-can-speed-afghan-exit-obama-says.html


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12 Responses to Obama Accelerates Transition of Security to Afghans

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Afghanistan was another long and costly war that ends up in uncertainty. From a US administration standpoint, it was a just war waged in a country that protected America’s nemesis – Usama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda. The Obama administration faces the same challenge of previous administrations since the Vietnam war. In other words, how to finish a war waged for a long time without clear and precise objectives defined at the beginning of the campaign. After all, Bin Ladin was not killed in Afghanistan but in a major military garrison in Pakistan. The question is: what is the US legacy as the war comes to an end? A politically destabilized Pakistan and an Afghan economy without infrastructure, a working economy and a functional government. Taliban continues to be the only viable political-military structure operating in the country.

    Hamid Karzai and his business associates do not have a chance with the Taliban after the last American soldier leaves the country. No wonder he begs Obama to leave enough troops in Kabul to protect his residence and the airport. He knows that very soon he will have to fly on short notice to New York, Zurich or London, where most of his money is safely deposited.


  2. Bill Jacoby: Yes, we should leave. But before we leave, let’s resolve not to forget that this wasn’t an isolated example of foolishness. The Philipines, Cuba, Guatemala, Iran-Mossadegh, Iraq…when will we learn? What will it take?


  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Great Britain — US maker — is a good example of an Empire learning the limits of power. During the 19th century, the British Treasury could afford foreign expeditionary wars of conquest. The country went bankrupt in the 20th century in the aftermath of two major world wars. The era of conquest and military power was over for the British Empire. The US is repeating the British model. At this new century, the federal debt is imposing a ‘de facto’ limitation on expeditionary wars of punishment and conquest. The lesson from Great Britain is that empires fall not because of political will. Empires fall because of debt. Paraphrasing Dick Cheney ” major wars are no longer doable.” The good news for the 99% in the US is that Britain became one of the best countries to live and raise a family.


  4. niobium: It will take proper education for Americans to learn from history rather than bluster on in scatter brained wars that are fueled by military-industrial interests, egomania and ignorance.

    And, by the way , you missed the disastrous and costly Vietnam war.


  5. (…..) As for the size of the force after 2014, the White House has indicated that it is considering a range of 3,000 to 9,000 troops, which would be far lower than the Pentagon’s high-end proposal of 20,000 troops. Mr. Obama sounded as though he intends to keep enough there to carry out what he described as “a very limited mission” of training Afghan forces and hunting down remnants of Al Qaeda. Mr. Karzai reportedly has been counting on a force of 15,000, but that seems unlikely and strikes us as far too high. The two leaders reaffirmed support for negotiations with the Taliban, which have shown tentative promise in recent months, and they endorsed the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar, which could facilitate peace talks. Mr. Karzai also promised to step down as president next year as the Constitution requires and to work toward a free and fair election, but whether he will keep those vows is an open question. The American plan for an end to the war depends heavily on Afghan forces that can secure the country. Mr. Obama oversold how much they have improved and played down serious weaknesses. But he has rightly narrowed America’s goal in Afghanistan. And now he needs to withdraw the 66,000 troops as soon as possible.


  6. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Iraq – Afghanistan signals the end of ‘doable’ wars as Dick Cheney once said. Not because of lack of political will but because of lack of money. Like the British Empire before, the US elite is not losing the political appetite to use military power to preserve its business interests abroad. After all, Mitt Romney’s political platform did pledge increase in military spending and, probably another Middle East war against Iran. Obama — despite being member of the political Establishment — is a cold pragmatist. Despite some time in Washington, he has not lost the capacity of critical thinking learned while in law school at Harvard. Obama understands the though political choices facing his second administration. He wants to make sure he is aligned with the wishes of his core constituency. Getting out of Afghanistan and preserving the welfare state is one of them.

    The US society has reached a political crossroad at this point. The golden era in which there was enough money to sustain the most powerful army in the world, lower taxes for the wealthy and keep a welfare state for the middle class is over. Though choices on federal spending and debt ceiling are already on Congress for debate. It remains to be seen who is going to win the political debate in Congress. The 1% wealthiest Americans represented mainly by the GOP or the 99% represented by Obama and Democrats?


  7. US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are meeting throughout the day at the White House, developing specifics on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the US role in the region. Afghanistan faces two futures. “The direction depends on whether Afghanistan breaks its longstanding lack of economic integration with the outside world,” suggests Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan scholar and anthropology professor at Boston College. Many in the West are pessimistic. Struggles between any troubled parties at home, like tribal groups, or in the neighborhood, like Pakistan and India, could break out into war. Or Afghanistan could prosper, regaining prominence as hub in the Silk Road trade network.

    Asian neighbors, particularly India and China, are investing more than $20 billion in Afghanistan’s infrastructure, notes Barfield, “motivated not by charity but pursuit of profits and resources.” By comparison, the US has invested $1.6 billion in Afghan infrastructure since 2006. Karzai, widely criticized as weak, cannot run for reelection. Much depends on Afghanistan’s next set of leaders and willingness of neighbors to step up security to protect investments.


  8. (…..) For those that think any stability is impossible to achieve in Afghanistan, a similar growing economic interdependence in Western Europe after 1945 proved more successful in preserving peace than any set of political treaties. The Afghan government plays only a passive role in these developments. Other than balancing out its mineral contracts with both India and China, it has displayed no strategic vision. If Afghanistan wishes to become another Dubai rather than another Somalia, it needs imaginative leaders who offer an economic vision that offers hope to people who have already suffered too much.


  9. The landmarks of this capital city’s new middle class light up a once-restrained night sky — vast and glittering wedding halls with aspirational names like “Kabul-Paris,” streetlamp networks, come-hither billboards for energy drinks. After the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, thousands of Afghan families returned from abroad, or came in from the countryside, to construct urban and increasingly Westernized lives. They built homes and careers based on an influx of foreign money, expanded bureaucracies and new educational opportunities. And they are the ones most haunted by the fear that it could all just be a bubble, doomed to pop once foreign money and Western militaries stop holding it up. “We are enjoying life,” said Rasool Mohibzada, 31, a former taxi driver who sold chickpeas and balloons in Pakistan during the Taliban years, but after returning to Kabul won a job as an I.T. manager for the British Council, the cultural relations agency of the British government. Sitting in the large house he built on a $95,000 plot of land in airy western Kabul and playing with his 5-year-old daughter, he is a member of a young Afghan generation whose eyes burn with modest aspiration for what would be by outside standards an ordinary life — access to electricity, schools for his son and daughter, rule of law, security. “But I am quite afraid about the future at the moment,” he said. “If I got the chance, I would go now.” Though all of Afghanistan’s major cities have grown and changed, the biggest differences, by far, can be seen in Kabul. Its population has exploded, now more than 5 million compared with 1.2 million in 2001, and its streets, planned for 30,000 cars, are clogged with 650,000, according to the mayor, Mohammad Yunus Nawandish. He is drawing up an expanded city plan that can accommodate up to 8 million residents. The new urban elite makes up only a tiny slice of Afghan life — most of the newcomers to Kabul are impoverished migrants who now occupy terraces of rough mud houses that have splashed up onto the rocky hillsides surrounding the city (…..)


  10. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: First Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder — fictional character in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 novel — is alive and well in Afghanistan. The war was very profitable for many Americans and Afghans. However, the endgame will not be much different from Vietnam. Karzai’s family and criminal associates leaving the country in the last American flight while Afghan civilians working for American occupation forces being killed by the Taliban.


  11. It has given most of Afghanistan access to health care for the first time, even if it is weighed down by corruption and waste. It has drawn violent reprisals from the Taliban but educated a generation of Afghan girls. Accused of fostering a dependency culture, it has nonetheless provided the foundation for a functioning economy. By some measures the most ambitious nation-building program undertaken to date by the United States – and no doubt the most scrutinized and second-guessed – the 12-year aid effort to modernize and stabilize Afghanistan is now starting to face questions about how, and how quickly, it should be brought to a close. President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday that he would bring home more than half the remaining troops in Afghanistan over the next year, with nearly all the rest out by the end of 2014, put new focus on the future of aid programs in Afghanistan as the military presence there diminishes. With foreign aid also facing budget-cutting pressure in Congress and much of Washington out of patience with the Karzai government’s record on corruption, defenders of the development effort are warning against too precipitous a cutoff of funding from the United States and its allies. “Because we have so many of our own constraints economically right now, there’s a huge possibility that Congress will say we’re not going to provide $2.5 billion a year indefinitely,” said Caroline Wadhams, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the liberal research group. The administration and other advocates of aid are trying to maintain support for an international plan to scale back aid gradually, and do so in a way that gives the Afghan government and other institutions plenty of time to adapt. “Our record of creating really significant gains in Afghanistan over the last decade is what is going to enable us to continue to convince Congress and the American people that these investments are worth continuing to make,” said Alex Thier, who heads the United States Agency for International Development’s efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan (…..)


  12. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Afghanistan — like previous backward countries invaded by the US — is on its own after Washington withdraws ground troops in 2014. The future is not difficult to anticipate, it is inevitable. Karzai and his business associates will flee the country ASAP and a Taliban controlled government may take over. Rich mineral deposits will be explored by Chinese companies associated with local warlords and Kabul politicians..The economy will continue to be a basket case. Opium will keep its position as the main exporting cash crop for poor farmers. Meanwhile, the country remains one of the poorest in the world with the vast majority of the population being illiterate and poor. Finally, Afghanistan will cease to exist for the US media as soon as the last plane departs from Kabul.



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