Obama's Afghanistan speech: The troop withdrawal is dramatic, but it could work.

Military analysis.
June 22 2011 10:13 PM

A Brand-New Plan for Afghanistan

Obama's troop withdrawal marks a dramatic—and risky—shift in strategy.

(Continued from Page 2)

So it's a valid question, and one that falls on the COIN advocates to answer: How much more money should we spend, how many more lives should we sacrifice, to support a regime that isn't bothering to build the loyalty of its own people—a regime whose ultimate interests appear to be much different from ours?

This isn't to say that the United States and NATO should abandon Afghanistan. Nor is it remotely to say that this is what Obama is doing. Senior administration officials emphasized earlier in the day that there will still be 68,000 U.S. troops by the end of next summer and that the counterterrorism campaign—the raids and airstrikes advocated by the CT-Plus advocates—will continue with no reduction or let-up.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, the programs to train the Afghan forces, as well as to provide them with logistics, intelligence, and other forms of support and assistance, will remain the same—could possibly even be boosted. (Obama has left it to his commanders to decide how to pace the drawdown and how to reconfigure the U.S. forces that remain.)

The strategy is thus stripped down to its basics: to keep al-Qaida out; and to keep "degrading" the Taliban and other insurgents so they are incapable of taking over the government of Afghanistan or huge swaths of its territory. The United States and several other countries have a security interest in these goals, independent of what Karzai wants. Any war goal more ambitious than those vital interests may at this point be beyond us—not least because, as has been clear for a long time now, Karzai is doing everything he can to undermine those goals.

This isn't to say that the critics of the accelerated drawdown are wrong. Obama's actions, and even more his announcement of the actions, will make it harder for U.S. and Afghan troops to stave off the Taliban militarily and to win over the Afghan people politically.

But it may also send a message to Karzai that he really does have to get serious about reform. And, it may send a message to Afghanistan's neighbors that they really do have to start playing an active role in helping to stabilize the country—or else risk the stability of their whole region. All along, officials from Obama, Gates, Clinton, and Petraeus on down have said that these kinds of wars tend to end not with a military victory but with a political settlement. If Obama couples his military drawdown with a surge in diplomacy pressure, this may all turn out for the best.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 22 2014 1:01 PM The Surprisingly Xenophobic Origins of Wonder Bread
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.