BREAKING NEWS – Word out of Washington is that the president will announce today that the US will leave 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016.
The original plan was to leave a residual force of 1,000 in country to allow the Afghan government the space to develop its military protection. But the resurgence of the Taliban, the continued presence of Al Qaeda and the rise of ISIS in the region threatened the Afghan government and caused a change in strategy.
It should be noted that where the original plan was for the remaining troops to provide force protection for the Afghan government; under the new plan this larger force will be called on to engage the enemy wherever Afghan and American interests are threatened.
The president’s new plan will cost an additional $14.6 billion borrowed dollars.
Critics say that the president’s altered course is the result of a lesson learned after “pulling the rug out from under the Iraqi government” by withdrawing all American forces from that country. The resulting vacuum allowing for the rise of ISIS and a country on the verge of collapse.
That critique, while politically convenient for those eager to deny history, is lacking in basic fact.
The truth is the president wanted to leave a residual 5,500 man force in Iraq for stabilization purposes. He was denied that request by the new democratically elected Iraqi government. Eager to show that it was not an American puppet; the Iraqis would only allow Americans to stay in country if they were held subject to Iraqi law. The president naturally refused and withdrew the troops. The Iraqi government has thus far been able to fill the vacuum left behind.
The Afghan government watched from afar as these events played out. Having no interest in repeating the Iraqis’ mistakes, the Afghans decided to accept the American protection. It is the Afghans who learned a lesson here…not the president.
Unfortunately I believe what we are seeing in this new plan is a glimpse into the future. The first of many similar plans that will be executed throughout the region.
There are probably a dozen small, weak countries in the region where America has a vested interest. I think that you will see us deploying small residual forces in these countries, to be used in concert with Special Ops, drones and military air attacks. All deployed in a coordinated effort to beat back the extremists and protect our allies. The cost in blood and treasure will be astronomical.
Or we could leave.
We could withdraw our troops and leave it to the locals to solve their centuries old disputes.
We find ourselves in an untenable situation that is the direct result of decades of bad interventionist policies. Militarily speaking we can roll back the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS with little effort. But unless we are prepared to occupy the taken ground in perpetuity we are engaging in a fool’s errand. And every time we drop a bomb, kick down a door or occupy a pasture we incite more and more extremists to join the battle.
Senator Lindsey Graham is a war hawk. He has never met a war that he didn’t want to wage. He was recently asked if he could see an end to the Middle East conflicts. “When do we leave?” He was asked. “Never!” He replied. “You can never leave.”
The American people are not interested in the prospect of unending wars. They have too many problems of their own to concern themselves with the plight of the Palestinians or the Israelis or the Syrians. The American people checked out of Iraq long before the war was over. After 15 years they have long since checked out of Afghanistan. But the politicians in Washington aren’t listening.
I guess Lindsey Graham is right. The Middle East has become our Hotel California...
“You can check out any time you like…but you can never leave.”