On March 25, while holding a press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, President Barack Obama announced a more specific vision for what he plans to do with U.S military troops in Afghanistan. Though plans for a military exit have been somewhat obscure up until now, Obama openly declared that he will slow down the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, maintaining his target of total withdrawal by the end of 2016. Obama reasoned that, after consulting with Ahmadzai and various military personnel, the United States should remain a significant presence in Afghanistan. This would fully equip Afghan forces with the necessary training and support to lead an effective battle against the Taliban and other extremist organizations for the years to come.
Though this may be a controversial issue for those hoping for a full exit from Afghanistan, the historical events that have transpired make the president’s approach seem logical.
Obama’s approach is reasonable because by asserting that United States support in Afghanistan has a deadline of 2016, the United States forces the Afghan government to maximize their window of support in the time allotted. Slowing down U.S. withdrawal amplifies their efforts by helping to build a stronger base of local Afghan military presence. Though Obama has remained adamant about his deadline, Afghanistan can show progress in their internal state of affairs in the time Obama has given. U.S. officials believe it to be necessary for security reasons to stay longer. Thus, troops will likely remain the in the area for longer. According to a Bloomberg Politics correspondent, Obama is willing to revisit the timeline he has set forth at the end of this year, illustrating his firm handling of the situation.
This approach guarantees that the Afghan government will not sit back and depend on the U.S. because it has the deadline looming over its head.
Using the Iraq situation as an example, Obama has seemingly learned from past mistakes. Early U.S. departure from a chaos-ridden area has proven to be anything but a success, as seen with the failure of Iraq’s own government and military to effectively handle their own state of affairs. In this sense, slowing down U.S. troops withdrawal is a necessary step to take. If the United States were to leave early, the probability of a government and military breakdown in Afghanistan is quite high. The idea of Obama’s plan being drawn out for longer than expected is a premature notion because we should be confident in our influence over the Afghanistan government before leaving.
At the same time, an extended vision of U.S. presence in Afghanistan is not necessary and could actually backfire against the U.S. Declaring such a strategy would make the Afghanistan government much too comfortable at a point where they should be anything but comfortable. The Afghans should be doing everything in their power to deleverage themselves from the U.S. while remaining effective and offensive in their battle against the Taliban. It tends to be true that people react quickly in grave situations. The longer the U.S. stays in Afghanistan, the less grave of a situation the Afghans find themselves in, thereby resulting in less of a need to correct political failures and build a cohesive society and functional government. Arguing for a prolonged establishment of American troops in Afghanistan is in fact flawed due to this psychological reality.
It seems as though Obama has taken a look at the factors from various angles and has incorporated a logical plan into action.