Obama's egg-timer strategy risks undermining Afghan gains
By Rob Crilly World Last updated: May 28th, 2014
There was nothing surprising about Barack Obama's Rose Garden announcement that 9800 American troops will stay in Afghanistan after the end of combat operations this year. That is the figure that has long floated around among senior Nato commanders inside the country.
More surprising is that they won't be staying long. The number seems to be just one stop along the drawdown de-escalator, before all troops are out in 2016.
With the Taliban still capable of launching spectaculars in the capital Kabul and al-Qaeda running a shadow army it seems as if political considerations have been put ahead of Afghanistan's needs.
As Howard "Buck" McKeon, the California Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, put it:
I'm pleased the White House met the military's request for forces in Afghanistan. However, holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn't make a lick of sense strategically.
The only thing that should inform the decision are conditions on the ground: The capacity of the Taliban to wage war and the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces to wage war right back at them.
The arbitrary timetable gives away that fact that Mr Obama's only concern is for his domestic audience. With a presidential election in 2016, the only way he can make good on his promise to bring back American troops is to fly them home without regard for Afghanistan's needs, hopes and fears.
If Afghanistan is to prosper it will need the world's support for many years to come, whether in the form of aid, diplomatic support or armed forces to help train, mentor and advice Afghanistan's own soldiers.
The war in Afghanistan will not end simply because Mr Obama wills it.