Thursday, February 27, 2014

All Options on the Table

The President is ordering the Pentagon to plan for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, if necessary.

Here we go:

President Barack Obama threatened on Tuesday to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year if a crucial security pact is not signed — and he ordered the Pentagon to accelerate planning for just that scenario.

After all the talking about staying, President Obama may have to fall back on the "zero option" and simply leave Afghanistan just as we left Iraq.

This option is known in the White House as "Plan A."

This preference for just walking away without defending our gains can perhaps be made more clear by an intensive effort to guarantee at least a decent interval before bad things happen after we bug out:

The United States has intensified its drive against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow to the militants in Afghanistan before foreign combat forces depart this year, according to multiple U.S. officials.

The effort is taking on added urgency as the clock ticks down on a NATO combat mission in Afghanistan set to end in December, and as questions persist about whether Pakistan will take action against a group some U.S. officials believe is quietly supported by Pakistani intelligence.

This sounds like a version of our Cambodia incursion during the Vietnam War, which was designed to throw the North Vietnamese off balance so they could not interfere with our troop withdrawal. Knock them back and they are too busy repairing the damage to attack us.

Whether this can be done without major Pakistani help on their side of the border is a good question.

But this may indicate that all the Obama administration aspires to achieve for the Afghanistan War--after pretending to care about winning with two surges--is avoiding blame for defeat by creating a decent interval between our departure and the defeat of the Afghanistan security forces.

Which is a sad fate for the "good war," no?

Not that I think the Taliban are unstoppable. But the Afghan forces do need our help for some time to keep fighting the Taliban. There is no reason the Taliban should win if only we don't abandon the progress we've had and throw away the sacrifices of American, Coalition, and Afghans who have resisted the barbarous Taliban the last 13 years (and more, for Afghans).

So I stand corrected. I don't know if victory is on the table. Or ever has been.