The Afghan endgame

US Army/Sgt. Jon Heinrich

U.S. soldiers patrol down a mountain after visiting an Afghan border police observation point in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • Obama’s decision to withdraw another 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the course of the next year is unwise

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  • The president’s decision on Afghanistan, though bad, was not as bad as it might have been

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  • The president appears to have yielded to military realities and the laws of physics in Afghanistan

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President Obama’s decision to withdraw another 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the course of the next year is unwise. It greatly increases the risk of mission failure in that important conflict, jeopardizing gains already made in the Taliban heartland in the south and compromising the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to finish the fight against the Haqqani Network in the east. It also increases the risk that al Qaeda will be able to reestablish itself in limited safe havens in Afghanistan over time. Removing troops and capabilities before Afghanistan’s next presidential election, scheduled for April 2014, further exacerbates the danger that Afghanistan might collapse into renewed ethnic civil war.

It was not as bad as it might have been, however, and prospects for success in this conflict remain, although the odds grow ever longer. The president appears to have yielded to military realities and the laws of physics on a number of important points. The drawdown itself is paced to keep a significant number of American troops in Afghanistan through most of this coming fighting season: Around 6,000 troops are to be withdrawn between now and this spring; another 8,000 by November; and the final 20,000 by February 2014.

To read the full text, please visit www.CriticalThreats.org.

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