As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength.
American media has to put Obama’s nonsense into a cognitive frame they understand: who’s up, who’s down. Thus the bogus attention paid to Petraeus vs. Biden. This was classic Boy King Goldilocks. Withdrawing the surge troops (assuming it happens) still leaves 70,000 in a strategic black hole. One of the most comical moments tonight was to behold Gergen’s phlegmatic outrage that Obama did not do everything Petraeus told him.
Unlike Gergen, Zakaria etc. you wouldn’t be surprised that we thought the speech merely modest if not mediocre. Its trumphalism hollow to even the most casual observer. What to make of such absurdities as “We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength? Many cynics might opine that the Boy King began misleading with “Good evening”, but, as Richard Cheney once said, we are not one of them.
The alleged goals and victory conditions enunciated again tonight – a cohesive national Afghan government, a reliable Afghan military, a non-corrupt police, etc. are not only wholly historically anomalous and thus beyond our means, but nothing can be achieved by kinetic violence. Whether one campaign season, two campaign seasons or a dozen.
In that sense, Obama’s cynical Goldilock’s solution is imposition of crass political calculation in the face of strategic insanity. Whether he pulls 10,000 now, leaves them, or pulls any other fraction of 100,000. Leaving a large American army in Afghanistan further exposes U.S. logistics to an increasingly hostile Pakistan. And that’s the rub.
The only feasible ‘victory’ outcome in Afghanistan as enunciated by the Boy King requires not only combat in Afghanistan. Pakistan must be eliminated as sanctuary and sponsor. A joint occupation of “Afpak” is beyond U.S. means and even imagination. But it does mean that prosecuting the ‘war’ in Afghanistan is even more strategically bankrupt than the Southeast Asian unpleasantness.
For a while Pakistan thought it would emerge the ultimate winner together with its proxies seeking control of Afghanistan for strategic depth (if no longer branded ‘Taliban’). Until recently, that is. The arrest of a brigadier and the naval base raid merely the latest signs of a burgeoning who whom.
For the U.S., Obama in Afghanistan presents a double irony. The first? LBJ et al. were actually more sincere in their mistakes than this crowd. The second? The first passes unrecognized.