In Afghanistan, Failure is a Choice
Will President Obama choose it?
11:49 PM, Jun 6, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Tuesday's Wall Street Journal features a very important piece on Afghanistan by Kim and Fred Kagan. The Kagans show how irresponsible it would be for the president to announce the withdrawal of a substantial number of troops in July, as some political advisers in the White House are advocating. They also point out how irresponsible it would be to establish a "bookend" of announcing the planned withdrawal of all the surge troops in 2012. The surge over the last year and a half has created the conditions for success in Afghanistan. The Kagans explain that if we see the fight through in the south and the east for the next two years, a real drawdown will then be possible in 2013, consistent with the NATO goal of transferring security control to the Afghans in 2014.
It would be terrible, indeed shocking, if President Obama undercut all the efforts and sacrifices of the last year, efforts and sacrifices carried out pursuant to his orders, by choosing now to begin to cut and run — especially since the decision to cut and run would be driven entirely by domestic political considerations.
I might add, for what it's worth, that I don't think the White House operatives even get the political considerations right: surely the president will be better off next year to be succeeding in Afghanistan with 95,000 troops, even if the war remains somewhat difficult and unpopular, than to be failing with 65,000 troops, having invited failure by ignoring the recommendations of his generals in the summer of 2011?
In any case, the president's decision in the next few weeks could mean the difference between a good chance of success and the likelihood of defeat — a dishonorable and unnecessary defeat — in Afghanistan.
Here are highlights of the Kagans' Journal piece. Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Today's Washington Post reports that "The number of Americans who say the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting has increased for the first time since President Obama announced at the end of 2009 that he would boost troop levels, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The finding may give Obama slightly more political breathing room as he decides how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in July, the deadline he set 18 months ago to begin bringing home the additional U.S. forces."
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