President Barrack Obama ordered all 33,000 Us surge troops home from Afghanistan by next summer and declared the begining of the end of the war, vowing to turn to nation building at home.
US President Barack Obama’s Wednesday speech on the pullout from Afghanistan has given rise to an array of various, often contradictory, appraisals.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed his American counterpart’s initiative by declaring that a stage-by-stage pullout of 4,000 French soldiers will begin next month. British Defence Ministry officials have also said that the government will consider whether to withdraw more than just the 400 of the 10,000strong British force, as was declared earlier. Other NATO allies, including Canada, Germany and Italy have even earlier set deadlines for their troop withdrawal. It seems that Barack Obama’s speech had been expected long ago, and now it has produced a “domino effect” with US’ NATO allies only too eager to get out of the mess they produced in Afghanistan.
As for the US itself, the reaction to Obama’s speech was a mixed one. State Secretary Hillary Clinton almost replicated the speech, repeating his idea that the US is withdrawing its forces “from a position of strength”. She also made it clear that reaching out to the Taliban is key to the overall success in Afghanistan.
President Obama’s Republican opponents by and large issued well-predicted criticism of the pullout plans. Senator John McCain said Obama had opted to deny military commanders in Afghanistan the ability to finally defeat "a battered and broken enemy".
Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was a little bit more cautious in choosing his words, but he too opposed an “arbitrary timetable” for the troop withdrawal, also referring to some “significant progress” the US has achieved in Afghanistan.
The US military have found themselves in an awkward position. On the one hand, they would definitely prefer the continuation of the campaign, since it would mean additional budget allocations for Pentagon needs. On the other hand, directly opposing the commander-in-chief is inconsistent with military ethics.
So, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that he supported the President’s decision, but added that it was “more aggressive” and “incurring more risk” than he was originally prepared to accept, and also that leaving troops in place would be “the safer course”.
The top commander of US troops in Afghanistan and President Obama’s nominee for the position of CIA director General David Petraeus also said that the President’s decision “was a more aggressive formulation in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended,” but added that he would nevertheless stand by the President.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, speaking to reporters in his heavily guarded palace in the capital, Kabul, described the announcement that American troops would depart as “a moment of happiness for Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, too many in Afghanistan, especially in the South, doubt the ability of Afghan National Army (ANA) to counter the insurgents after US and NATO troops leave the country.
But very unpleasant question remain. Was the ten years campaign worth hundreds of billions of dollars spent on it, 1,500 lives sacrificed and 12,000 wounded, if the outcome is a trivial surrender to a former enemy?
At present, the US force in Afghanistan amounts to more than 100,000 servicemen with other allies contributing approximately 30,000. The ANA is predicted to reach a total of 170,000 by autumn this year. But the numbers are not what decide the outcome of the confrontation in the country. It is the ability and the morale of the troops that matters. And there is absolutely no guarantee that once the Western troops leave the country the ANA will not turn around and join the insurgents.
And therefore, the American pullout plans can be viewed only in one context. The war is lost, and Barack Obama’s speech is an indirect recognition of the fact. Reaching out to the Taliban is in no way a demonstration of a “position of strength”, as Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton would like to put it, but a clear sign of America’s weakness. Finally, it has dawned on them that the enemy they had been trying so hard to defeat is the only reliable force in Afghanistan.
But very unpleasant questions remain. Was the ten-year campaign worth hundreds of billions of dollars spent on it, 1,500 lives sacrificed and 12,000 wounded, if the outcome is a trivial surrender to a former enemy?
History does not seem to have taught the Americans anything – neither the history of British and Soviet failures in Afghanistan, nor their own history. And now Afghanistan has every chance of becoming America’s Vietnam # 2.