America at Peace? Obama Halving US force in Afghanistan, winds down War

President Obama announced Tuesday that he would pull some 34,000 US troops out of Afghanistan over the next year, about half of the force that is in the country now. US forces are going into a support role this spring, but one suspects they will be doing more than that till they leave, given the sad shape of the Afghanistan National Army.

This withdrawal is steeper than some observers had predicted or than the Pentagon was pushing for. The announcement marks the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war and occupation, the longest such military enterprise in American history. By January 1, 2015 the United States could be largely at peace, with no major combat operations anywhere, for the first time since 2001. Skirmishes and drone strikes, however, threaten to continue. And the dark cloud of Washington’s Iran obsession remains on the horizon.

The first convoy of of US military materiel is taking 50 truckloads of stuff from US bases in Afghanistan to Pakistan, the beginning of a massive troop draw-down.

The Pentagon is still advocating that some US 8,000 troops be left in Afghanistan for three years after the end of 2014. But they may not get this wish of theirs for budgetary reasons.

If the Obama administration and congress cannot both agree on next year’s budget, sequestration will kick in, with steep cuts to the military. These cuts could hasten the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The US disentanglement from that country will leave behind some major challenges.

2014 is also the year that long-serving Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he will step down. A major change of leadership makes subsequent developments harder to predict. The silver lining is that Karzai is erratic and a successor might have a steadier hand.

there are major security and human rights problems, though the US military can’t fix those even if it stayed, and sometimes has contributed to them. Half of Afghan prisoners say they had been tortured while in government custody.

20 Responses

  1. To be free of war after 12 years of bogus wars fabricated by bloodthirsty neocons within our government would be like a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, this era will remain as a stain on our reputation for many years.

    Unfortunately, watching the Hagel hearings yesterday I saw the invisible hand of the Israeli lobby and the armament industry once again pushing spineless senators to make shameless accusations against Iran. Accusations such as “Iran is the main exporter of terrorism in the world” and “We must stop Iran from their quest to build a nuclear bomb.”

    The peace may be short lived if the lobby and the war profiteers have anything to say about it…and they will.

  2. Can’t hardly wait to see the actual details of this “drawdown,” how many “bases” will remain, how many contractors, how many actual uniformed people doing exactly what. And who, officially, will be the last GI to die over there. And of course, as with what Everybody Knows Was The “Legal,” “justified” Vietnam War, buried in the valleys and villages will be the actual true nature of the whole “UN” involvement, with all its corruption and covert violence. And once again the Grinning Chimps and Important Generals and Dick(less) Cheneys who spun up the Stupid will get to walk away into a warm sunset, and the machinery that converts wealth into war toys and Bugsplats will keep the drones, ever more of them, in the air.

    By the way, here’s little snippet for the edification of those who press so hard for the rest of us to just accept that “droning” is legal and trying to bury the patent unwisdom of the whole “counter-terrorism” schtick (maybe, for consistency and to highlight the futility, we should rename the Grand Global Effort the “War on Terrorism,” since it’s now eliding into that other futile and interminable smokescreen, the “War on Drugs.” It’s not like the Joint Command Structure is not already in place, along with the “transitioning” of weapons systems and brigades into that other profitable and perpetual fraud:

    “Cheney Likes Something Obama’s Doing: Drone Strikes!” This from the World Expert on What’s Legal, What’s Wise, and What He Can Get Away With, who also thinks:

    — Obama’s national security team is “second rate.”

    — Obama’s foreign and national security policies are making the nation “vulnerable to the future.” link to vpr.net Cheney agrees — doesn’t that make you feel all justified?

    • I understand that we have 10,000 armed forces still in Baghdad – we say they are embassay guards, I think.

      Haven’t seen any reports, but I’d guess the CIA-friendly despots of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Talabanis and the Barzanis, allow us to keep significant forces and installations there, uniformed or not, beyond the control of Baghdad.

      I assume that our residual forces in Afghanistan post-2014 will work for Eric Prince.

      • There are about 10,000 contractors and staff total in Baghdad. That includes development workers, diplomats, plumbers, embassy staff, embassy marines, and diplomatic security. There are about 3000 trigger-pullers out of that number, in a country of 27 million.

        By way of comparison, there are over 10,000 uniformed U.S. troops in Italy.

        The number I’ve seen being thrown around for a residual force in Afghanistan is about 3000.

      • “I assume that our residual forces in Afghanistan post-2014 will work for Eric Prince.”

        Please provide evidence to substantiate your claim as stated in the above-cited quote? Otherwise, one can only conclude that you are making wildly unsubstantiated claims.

    • When did you start taking Dick Cheney at his word?

      If Cheney supports the war against al Qaeda so much, why was the Cheney administration so asleep at the switch? Why did they bury it, do almost nothing on that front, and starve the mission so they could focus on Iraq.

      Disgraced former Vice President Dick Cheney tries to glom onto his successor’s accomplishments, and take credit for the success of policies that are dramatically different from his own. Didn’t we just see this movie with the bin Laden raid?

      I know: let’s believe what Dick Cheney says, because wouldn’t be awesome if he wasn’t lying this time?

      • “When did you start taking Dick Cheney at his word?”

        My question exactly, Joe. Why get wrapped around the axle over what Cheney says? There are more important things about which one should be concerned, unless one’s focus is solely on looking at the past.

  3. Skirmishes and drone strikes, however, threaten to continue.

    Most of the drone strikes in Pakistan, and virtually all of them in Afghanistan, have not been part of the anti-al Qaeda mission, but are close air support or tactical bombing conducted as part of the Af-Pak War. With that war winding down and ending, the number of drone strikes should be expected to plummet as well.

    • Many US drone strikes in Pakistan are in or around Miran Shah.
      That’s where we think Bowe Bergdahl is being held.
      You connect the dots.

  4. Every time I hear or read of these troop draw downs and timetables, I wonder about a kind of important piece of the Afghanistan puzzle that just never gets mentioned. Namely, the $3-plus billion of untapped mineral deposits — iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium — sitting in the mountains along the southern and eastern regions bordering Pakistan. Lithium & cobalt especially, necessary to every single electronic device in the world.
    “There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.” (NYT 6/13/10)
    I can’t believe the US is going to simply pack its bags and walk away, leaving the exploration & development of this resource to Kharzai & Co. or any other locals. Or China, for that matter. I can easily imagine a significant US presence remaining indefinitely to protect what must surely be seen in some quarters as highly strategic resource and (possibly) a way of recouping some of what the US has spent in the country over last the ten years’ war.
    Thoughts, anyone?

    [Risen’s article here: link to nytimes.com

    • The idea of an American presidential administration leaving a country it occupies and allowing its mineral resources of to be developed by others is every bit as absurd as the idea of an American presidential administration allowing a core regional security ally like Hosni Mubarak to be overthrown without lifting a finger to save him, and actively supporting the opposition.

      Barack Obama is not George Bush.

      • The idea that the White House could “save” Mubarak is simply wrong. It tried. It didn’t succeed. The US was firm in its support of the detested regime until long past the point of no return. Why isn’t that understood?

        • Sure it tried. Sure it was “firm in its support.” I’ll tell ya, it was Alan Dulles all over again when the administration had military officers call their Egyptian counterparts and tell them to disobey any orders to open fire. The public insistence that the government reach an accord with the protesters was indistinguishable from El Salvador 1984.

          Do you know why your story isn’t understood? Because it isn’t true.

  5. The draw down is good and long overdue, but as Smith Boy points out, the Neocon base is strong in DC, as are lobbyists for Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics and their ilk. They will continue pushing for more pilot-less aircraft for a cleaner war. And little mention of the cost of bases in Europe and Japan, nor of new bases for our expanded cleaner wars.

    • One of the core beliefs of neocon ideology is that competition between states over traditional national interests is what matters, and that sub-state groups just don’t matter, except to the extent that they are cat’s paws of state actors.

      They had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do something about al Qaeda, and changed the subject to Iraq as soon as possible. They talked our ears off explaining that gaining control of that state was the key to ending Islamic extremism and terrorism, and otherwise advancing the American national interest.

      What you’re calling a “cleaner war” is dramatically opposed to their vision. You can’t secure oil resources with drone strikes. You can’t overthrow hostile governments with drone strikes. You can’t install and maintain puppet governments with drone strikes. You can’t even make a serious dent in a foreign military.

      • Your point is well taken. However contractor stock prices and cost benefit ratios also count in the new world order.

    • “Centcom winding down for Africom”

      Your evidence, please? Africom’s structure does not depend upon Centcom’s status. Any evidence you have to the contrary would be welcome.

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