There was nothing in Mr. Obama’s speech to “reflect the doubts of many American officials that the Afghan government or its military can hold its own against the Taliban with reduced American support,” wrote New York Times reporter Mark Landler this week.
Nor was there any flat-out declaration of defeating the Taliban who once ruled Afghanistan and protected Osama bin Laden. Mr. Obama admitted that his administration “has been in direct discussion with the Taliban.”
Indeed, he appeared to see a future in which there will be a role for the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Our goal is not to build a country in American’s image or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban,” he said.
But the Taliban are playing a waiting game, and Mr. Obama has helpfully given them a date when the U.S. combat role will end. Armed with that information, they plan to unleash a renewed terrorist assault to regain power and to offer sanctuary and support for future Osama bin Ladens.
Mr. Obama’s speech pointedly exaggerated the ability of Afghan forces to take full control of the nation’s security, military analysts say.
“Progress in creating effective Afghan forces is increasingly questionable, the insurgents are clearly committed to going on with the fight, and relations with Pakistan seem to take two steps backward for every apparent step forward,” writes defense analyst Anthony H. Cordesman on the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ website.
“Even now, months before any substantial drawdown, there are growing concerns about whether the Haqqani militant network, fresh from a blitz of attacks that paralyzed the capital for a day last month, poses a growing long-term threat,” writes New York Times Kabul reporter Alissa J. Rubin. “And mainstream Taliban leaders are still resisting talks, seemingly confident that they can secure both influence and territory on their own terms,” Ms. Rubin says.
Mr. Obama’s game plan for withdrawal has been planned right down to the wire with only one thing in mind: Election Day. His withdrawal plan calls for pulling out 23,000 troops by September, and there are internal discussions about possibly accelerating the troop pullout to boost Mr. Obama’s sagging poll numbers. A Gallup Poll had him in a virtual tie Wednesday with Mitt Romney, who has been a sharp critic of his Afghan policies.
As unpopular as the Afghanistan war is, the strategic decisions in Mr. Obama’s exit plan have turned too often into political decisions. That is no way to wage war or execute a national security mission that has cost America dearly in blood and treasure.
Mr. Obama irresponsibly handed the Taliban a date certain when we would clear out, and now they’re planning their march back into power as soon as we do.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.