The President’s surprise trip to Afghanistan to sign a new security agreement with Hamid Karzai either was a brilliant stratagem to cover the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 or a declaration that America’s longest war would be extended for another decade.
Unfortunately, we will not know which direction the President — or his successor — is headed until 2014.
The speech was short on specifics.
Opponents of the war hope that the speech was the equivalent of one spouse telling the other, I love you more than ever and will care for you forever, but I am filing divorce papers in the morning.
However, war foes fear that the speech may provide cover to continue our military engagement well beyond 2014, albeit with fewer troops. The Long Goodbye.
In his speech to the country Tuesday night (U.S. time), the President declared :
“Our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”
Wonderful that the American troops are coming home! Good also that the Afghans will take over their own security.
However, some of us would prefer troops home by the end of 2012 rather than the end of 2014.
This position is now shared by a large majority of the nation, Republicans as well as Democrats and independents.
According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, the American public backs withdrawal by 78% – 19%, including Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Americans are tired of a war that has lasted 11 years and has no military solution.
After hundreds of billions in U.S. taxpayer money, the lives of nearly 2,000 American service members, over 15,000 wounded and countless Afghan lives, it’s clear that a continued American occupation is not in either nation’s interest.
So the speech last night and the signing of a strategic partnership is a turning point, except we don’t yet know where the turn is taking us.
This month, NATO countries will meet in Chicago to talk about what’s next for Afghanistan, and we need President Obama to press our NATO allies there and our NATO allies to press the President for an end to this disastrous war.