It’s long been of President Obama’s goals to wind down America’s commitment in both of the active wars he inherited when he assumed the office in 2008. Now, facing pressure from the U.S. Army, the CIA, Congress, and even Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Obama will later today announce a reversal of his commitment to withdraw all but 1,000 soldiers by the time he leaves office. We’re staying. Indefinitely. The New York Times:
Now, instead of falling back to the embassy — a heavily fortified compound in the center of Kabul — the administration officials said on Wednesday that the military would be able to maintain its operations at Bagram Air Field to the north of Kabul, the main American hub in Afghanistan, and at bases outside Kandahar in the country’s south and Jalalabad in the east.
All three bases are crucial for counterterrorism operations and for flying drones that are used by the military and the C.I.A., which had also argued for keeping troops in Afghanistan to help protect its own assets.
There was no set date for the military to decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan to 5,500, said the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Mr. Obama’s announcement. The pace of that troop reduction would be determined largely by commanders on the ground, and the timing would also most likely provide flexibility to whoever succeeds Mr. Obama.
The move is a response to the Taliban’s surge: The group’s reach in Afghanistan is at its broadest level since 2001, the UN reported earlier this week. And last month’s fall of Kunduz vividly demonstrated that a few hundred determined Taliban fighters were able to best thousands of Afghan police and military personnel in a coordinated attack. Though the city was retaken a week later, the tide only turned once Western soldiers joined the fight.
Though Obama Administration officials insist that a recalibration of Obama’s withdrawal plans was being debated for months, it’s clear that the Kunduz debacle tipped the scales definitively. Now if only such consideration had been given to the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq…