Monday, July 21, 2014

U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2016?

President Obama has been arguing for withdrawing from Afghanistan for years, with his first plan involving withdrawals beginning July 2011. Three years after that date, more U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan:

Under Obama’s plan, announced in May before Sunni militants seized control of much of Iraq, about 20,200 American troops will leave Afghanistan during the next five months, dropping the US force to 9,800 by year’s end.

That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, with only about 1,000 remaining in Kabul after the end of 2016.

("Congress uneasy over plans to leave Afghanistan," Deb Riechmann, AP, printed in the Boston Sunday Globe, July 20, 2014)
Ten U.S. senators are arguing that this pullout is too risky for Afghanistan, especially in advance of their presidential election.

President Bush set a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq by the end of 2011, which was accomplished during the Obama administration. The AP article says that Obama's plan to withdraw from Afghanistan "responds to the American public’s war fatigue and his desire to be credited with pulling the United States out of two conflicts."

A year ago, Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai ordered U.S. special operations forces to leave Maidan Wardak province following reports that Afghan troops working with them were committing violent offenses against Afghan citizens. The newspaper Hasht-e Sobh said in an editorial that the US will have to continue supporting Afghanistan's military even after it pulls out of the country because "the cost of arming and funding Afghan security forces is much lower for the world than the cost of having to deal with the re-emergence of terrorism."

("How they see us: Afghans worry about U.S. pullout," The Week, March 8, 2013)

The pseudonymous Lexington wrote for the Economist that an American officer in Maine's national guard "says that explaining the war's final stages is 'hard'. As troops are drawn down, he questions the war constantly, fearing a moment when a grieving parent or spouse asks why their loved one died, 'and I don't have an answer.' ... Maine's military recruits are asking to serve their country, but 'not really signing up to some great moral cause.'"

Lexington also reports the personal story told by a school principal in South Portland, Me.:

Ms Wood's beloved nephew, Justin Buxbaum, found himself at war after signing up, aged 16, because without military grants 'he didn't know how to pay for college,' she says. Once in Afghanistan he died in an accident when his roommate's gun fell and went off. That isn't the story that people want to hear, she says, but the details matter less and less as time passes, being subsumed into an 'amorphous' narrative about heroism. Many stopped paying close attention after Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were killed, she says.

("The view from Maine streets, March 2, 2013")
In September 2012, an Afghan police officer killed four Americans. In June 2013, an Afghan soldier in Paktika province, Kher Qot district, argued with his American trainers and killed three of them before he himself was killed. That September, an American soldier with NATO was killed by an Afghan trainee in a similar incident in Paktika province.

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan since October 2001.

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