Friday, July 24, 2015

Learning from Iraq?

President Obama, despite indications to the contrary, seems to have learned that his decision to walk away from Iraq in 2011 was a mistake. We have left key residual capabilities in Afghanistan despite all indications that we planned to repeat the Iraq War mistake:

While American combat troops are largely (except for several thousand commandos) gone there is still a lot of American air support. Air reconnaissance are running at about 65 percent of the 2014 level and are nearly all in support of Afghan forces. While armed air support missions are down 85percent over 2014 that is changing. For the rest of the year the U.S. appears to be returning to about 65 percent of 2014 levels of armed air support. The Afghans have long asked for this pointing out that it makes a big difference for the effectiveness and morale of the Afghan soldiers and police who, until 2014, could depend on that air support.

I am grateful for this change. Special forces and air support are critical to keep Afghan forces fighting.

In the president's September 10th speech in 2014 announcing our re-engagement in Iraq, he indicated a determination to repeat his Iraq mistake in Afghanistan:

Already President Obama has made me grit my teeth. We will go back into Iraq because we failed to stay to defend our gains; and the president boasts that we will end the war in Afghanistan in two years. Somehow he doesn't see the connection between leaving too soon and risking defeat.

Now if we don't put an artificial end date for this support, our long war in Afghanistan won't have been in vain. Perhaps the difficulties of putting jihadis down again in Iraq after nearly annihilating them will change this, too.