Paring Down

Here’s Gen. Daniel Woodward’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, as articulated in a piece at RealClearWorld:

The need to safeguard our interests in the region is without dispute, and Central Command undoubtedly has stacks of studies that outline the special operations, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and training assets required to do just that.

This American military footprint will remain in Afghanistan for years, but the present force of 14,000 conventional soldiers, trainers, and advisers should be reduced now. It should be pared to a level consistent with America’s core counterterrorism objective in Afghanistan: ensuring transnational terrorist groups are unable to use the country to launch an attack on the American people. This will allow the country to reach equilibrium, even as we focus on our most fundamental national interest — protection of the homeland.

The key phrase in that passage is “America’s core counterterrorism objective in Afghanistan”. Since 2003 we’ve been pursuing a strategy of counterinsurgency there. We should have been pursuing counterterrorism. Whether any president will have the courage to pursue the right course and whether it can be preserved without mission creep remains to be seen.

9 comments… add one
  • Guarneri Link

    So I ask a question I’ve asked before. How is it that an entire series of presidents has adopted the same position? Serial stupidity? Superior inside knowledge? Beholden to the generals in turn beholden to the military industrial complex? Rank political calculations?

  • I can only offer an opinion. Andy may be able to address it more authoritatively.

    I think that what happens is that once you become president you’re overwhelmed by the reports and data that are launched at you by the Pentagon, State, intelligence, etc. You are deluged by the prevailing wisdom whatever it may be.

    Additionally, no president want to be the president that lost Afghanistan.

  • Guarneri Link

    I suppose that’s a variant of conventional wisdom. On the second point, maybe I’m just wired differently. I wouldnt give a rats ass if someone wanted to say I lost the country. I’d sleep a lot better knowing I wasn’t putting politics and legacy before lives.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    You’re wrong. Islamic fundamentalists cannot be given even a sliver of a window. They are that committed.

  • bob sykes Link

    Afghanistan and the Taliban did not attack America or any American ally. Nor did Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Libya or Syria. While al-Qaeda (whom we support in Syria) had training camps in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, where he was killed, next to a Paki military training facility.

    The Taliban offered a negotiated settlement regarding the training camps. Sudan offered to arrest bin Laden.

    bin Laden was Saudi, as were at least 15 of the terrorists in 9/11.

    So, by Woodward’s logic, we should have invaded Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

    By Shambler’s logic, we should be conducting roundups and expulsions of all Muslims in the US.

    America’s policy regarding terrorism is delusional beyond belief. The result of the GWOT is that al-Qaeda affiliates have now spread throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and the East Indies and Philippines. Surely some generals ought to be hanged so as to “encourage the others.”

  • Grey Shambler Link

    We should be doing surveillance at certain Mosques. What they call worship may not be that at all, but incitement to violence.
    Let’s see how AMLO’s “turn the other cheek” policy works out with the cartels, then maybe try it with ISIS.

  • It would be more practical to stop giving visas to Salafist imams.

  • Andy Link

    I think Dave has it about right. The various constituencies that support our continued presence will focus on all the real and potential negative effects of leaving (especially the political effects) and the status quo starts to seem good by comparison. No one wants to be labeled the President that “lost” Afghanistan. And, there is still the example of President Obama who is blamed (wrongly IMO) for the rise of ISIS due to the withdrawal from Iraq.

  • Andy Link

    “The Taliban offered a negotiated settlement regarding the training camps. Sudan offered to arrest bin Laden.”

    That was never actually the case, but it’s a good piece of propaganda that refuses to die.

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