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No Turning Back for Obama on Afghan War

President deliberately left no wiggle room in withdrawal plan for half-trillion-dollar war

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama greets members of the military before boarding Air Force One in Coraopolis, Pa. on Friday, June 24, 2011. (Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Analysis by Ben Feller

June 25, 2011


WASHINGTON — We’re getting out.

No more presidential talk of decisions based on conditions on the ground. No benchmarks to measure. No maybes at all.

Determined to pull the United States out of the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama deliberately left out any wiggle room in declaring that a methodical withdrawal has begun. His speech to the nation on Wednesday, a turning point in a fight most Americans don’t want, abandoned the caveats that commanders in chief often reserve for a war still being fought.

Why? Because Obama wants Kabul and the American electorate to know there will be no turning back. This combat mission will be over by the end of 2014.

After that, the United States will have forces in Afghanistan for counterterrorism missions and advisory support. Just how many is still to be negotiated with the Afghan government and perhaps the next U.S. president, whether that’s Obama or not. The White House is looking at a number in the range of 5,000 to 20,000, far fewer than the 100,000 U.S. troops there now.

Several factors led Obama to settle on a fast pace for withdrawal and an unequivocal tone.

Mainly, he sees a military mission accomplished, without ever using those words. Yet the political context also has changed significantly. A sovereign Afghanistan has tired of the U.S. presence, the financial toll of the war has become entangled with the U.S. debt debate, and people in the U.S. long for an exit. [links added]

As U.S. troops start coming home in July, with more than 30,000 pulling out by September 2012, Obama’s emphasis has narrowed. Just as he looked homeward when he ended the combat mission in Iraq, Obama is talking less about boosting the Afghan people and more about helping struggling Americans.

“We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place,” the president said in his speech. “We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government.” …

Some political voices still push for a slower withdrawal and warn that Afghanistan could slip back into a haven for terrorism, but they make up a lonely minority.

This decision is done. …

Full story


Cost of Afghan war surpasses $440 billion (MSNBC “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” June 23, 2011) — White House Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough explains how the drawdown will impact the fight against al-Qaida. (05:39)


Related report


Related reports on this site

An Afghan man holds the bodies of two children who were killed after an air strike in Helmand province, May 29, 2011. (Photo credit: (Photo credit: Abdul Malik Watanyar / Reuters)

Karzai: U.S. ‘Occupying Force’ (May 31, 2011)

Afghanistan ‘Tom and Jerry’ War (Jan. 4, 2011)

One American Dies Every 18 Hours in Afghanistan (Jan. 1, 2011)

‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010)

USA Surpasses USSR in Afghanistan Campaign (Nov. 29, 2010)

Afghanistan Worn-Out Welcome (Nov. 21, 2010)

Afghanistan War Cost Too High (Nov. 13, 2010)

Support for Afghan War Plummets (Aug. 4, 2010)

‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)

Afghan Support for U.S. Plummets (Feb. 10, 2009)

Bush-Cheney ‘Hell Bent’ on Iraq War (Nov. 27, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — June 25, 2010

Immigration Enforcement Surge

Image: Audience members at Fremont City Council meeting
Audience members at a July 27, 2010 meeting of the Fremont, Neb., City Council raise their hands to show their support for implementing an ordinance restricting the rights of illegal immigrants. (Photo credit: Nati Harnik / AP)

One year ago today, I reported that legislators or candidates in nearly 20 states were pushing for tougher anti-illegal immigration measures similar to Arizona’s sweeping new immigration law.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — June 25, 2009

Ahmadinejad: Obama Just Like Bush

Two years ago today, on June 25, 2009, I reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused U.S. President Barack Obama of behaving like his White House predecessor George W. Bush. Purely in terms of personal attributes, just how similar are Barack Obama and George W. Bush? And how, specifically, do they differ from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Following are their psychological profiles, developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

Personality Profile of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (June 11, 2009)

Image: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Personality Profile of George W. Bush (April 6, 2000)

Image: President Bush

Personality Profile of Barack Obama (Feb. 21, 2009)

3 Responses to “Obama Hell-Bent on Afghanistan Pull-Out”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » No Way Forward in Afghanistan Says:

    […] America’s chapter in Afghanistan’s struggle is drawing to a close. President Barack Obama has said he will withdraw a third of nearly 100,000 U.S. troops by next summer and end combat operations in 2014 — with or without even a semblance of a lasting success. […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » American Bloodshed Persists in Afghanistan Says:

    […] Obama Prepares for Afghanistan Pull-Out (June 25, 2011) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Record Number of U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan Says:

    […] Obama Prepares for Afghanistan Pull-Out (June 25, 2011) […]

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