First we were told the withdrawals would definitely begin by July, 2011 but then we were told that the date did not mean much and we would be supporting the government in Kabul for years to come. Now we are being informed that what has been characterized as a surge is really more like a dribble of troops that will take almost a year to complete. Monday’s Christian Science Monitor reported that “the full complement of American forces deploying to Afghanistan under President Obama’s new strategy will not arrive until November.” The source was no less a person than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen. This seems like a direct contradiction of the President’s statement in his West Point speech that the 30,000 additional troops would be deployed in the first half of 2010.
The point of a surge is to put as much force as can be deployed as rapidly as possible into Afghanistan so as to, in President Obama’s own words “break the Taliban’s momentum.” When such a deployment is spread out over nearly a year, it loses much of its effect. The Taliban will have time and, what is worse, space in which to respond. According to Admiral Mullen, the time we have lost over the past year has had significant consequences for our efforts in Afghanistan. “Getting at this network, which is now more entrenched, will now become a far more difficult task than it did even a year ago.” Imagine what the Taliban can do with another year to prepare.
Delay also diminishes our credibility with our allies, particularly Pakistan. We have asked the government in Islamabad to go after one of the Taliban-affiliated groups, the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan/northern Waziristan. But if there are no additional U.S. troops to block the Afghanistan side of the border, any Pakistan offensive on their side will fail. Since U.S. forces are slated to go first into southern and southeastern Afghanistan this leaves eastern Afghanistan for later in the year. So why should Pakistan go after a tough enemy who can just slip across the border?
The military has given many reasons for the delay: logistics problems, lack of infrastructure, poor terrain and bad weather. There are only so many C-17s, C-130s and CH-47s to transport troops and supplies. There are limits to how many M-ATVs can be produced and deployed. I am sure all of these difficulties were explained to the president. But he still picked July 2011 to begin the withdrawal.
Instead of eighteen months to change the situation in Afghanistan, General McChrystal will have essentially seven months. This makes no sense militarily. But it is brilliant politics. President Obama gave everyone something. Conservatives got a troop increase and liberals got a light at the end of the tunnel. But in reality it is a set up, a fraud. An eight year war cannot be turned around in seven months. But it is the perfect excuse to get out.
Find Archived Articles: