US in Afghanistan: Go Big or Go Home?

Afghanistan Obama and Karzai

In a White House news conference, Obama and Karzai have declared an end to the majority of combat operations in Afghanistan this spring, with US troops switching to a support role slightly earlier than initially planned.

While most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave in 2014, beginning in the spring, US troops are expected to switch to a support role and have Afghan forces take the security lead. As Obama puts it:

“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission – training, advising, assisting Afghan forces. It will be an historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty.”

Given that the Afghan forces are corrupt, incompetent, and often high, leaving them to combat the continued Taliban insurgency seems like a fantastic idea. Adding insult to injury, deadly insider attacks have now become quite commonplace in Afghanistan. Last year witnessed a sharp rise in attacks on Nato forces by rogue Afghan soldiers, believed to account for about 15% of coalition casualties in 2012.

Obama and Karzai appear to be glossing over this fact, declaring in the White House news conference that the capabilities of the Afghan army are “exceeding initial expectations”. I suppose if the initial expectations were nothing, then this may be true. Or maybe it still wouldn’t be…

In reality, the end of the US presence in Afghanistan is riddled with uncertainty and doubts over whether the Afghan government can build legitimacy and whether Afghan security forces will be capable of fending off the Taliban on their own. With the situation looking as bleak as it is, is there a point of keeping on a limited number of US troops in a support role? If not, the US should just go big or go home. Judging by overwhelming negative public opinion of the war and Obama’s recent risk-adverse cabinet picks, I think they’ll end up going home, leaving an ill-prepared Afghan security force and a soon to be Taliban takeover.

Via: BBC News

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