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Opinion

June 28, 2011

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Another hasty departure?

Another hasty  departure?

Nearly over a decade, and over half a trillion dollars and 1,500 American casualties later, President Obama announced a progressive withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. In a nationally televised address the president announced, “...starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer...”
In the backdrop of Bin Laden’s killing and the weakening American economy, public support for the Afghan War has dwindled between far-and-few. Mr Obama’s announcement has more to do with political compulsions than a well thought-out strategic initiative. President Obama, who is already in the 2012 presidential re-election mode, has tailored the withdrawal to cover all sides of the political spectrum.
For those concerned with the ballooning national debt, the president said, “Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.” He tried to win the Americans’ votes by honing their focus at home, “Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people.”
To pacify the demands of front running Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, who had been demanding a swift withdrawal, and the Democrats who complain that the cost of the war is siphoning money away from job creations in the US, the president laid down a timeline of the withdrawal, “After this initial reduction... Afghan security forces move into the lead.”
Then he set the date for completion of the withdrawal. He declared, “By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”
Ironically, Republican hawks like Mike Rogers criticise the president for pushing the national debit into the stratosphere but they don’t allow President Obama to kill a single prohibitively expensive military programme or pull out of any conflict. Congressman Rogers accuses Mr Obama for playing politics with the Afghan War. He said, “The president is trying to find a political solution with a military component, when it needs to be the other way around.”
Republicans are not the only ones who didn’t spare their criticism of the withdrawal, rumblings of ‘hasty withdrawal’ were heard from the president’s own cabinet. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, nominated CIA director General Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who expressed their reservations against the haste.
Arguably, the president’s withdrawal policy might force history to repeat itself. If the US once again leaves without cleaning the mess it created throughout the decade long war, who can say things would fare any better this time around?
Has US eliminated the Taliban, warlords or the drug barons who will most definitely take over the country as soon as America leaves? Will the millions of Afghans forget and forgive the Americans for their decade long occupation and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans? Will the Afghans accept the corrupt rulers US will leave behind, or will the Taliban fill the political and administrative vacuum again? Will Pakistanis sit idle and do nothing about the Indian influx in Afghanistan?
Instead of having gone-in with blazing guns, had America spent one fifth of that money – approximately $175 billion – and half of the time – five years – on developing Afghanistan’s infrastructure and improving the standard of living of the ordinary Afghan, we would not have been facing this conundrum today.

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