U.S. Forces to Stay in Afghanistan
Yesterday President Obama announced that up to 5,500 United States troops would remain in Afghanistan into 2017.
This comes as a stark contrast to the campaign promises and speeches Obama previously gave- the president has long had a dream of ending the war in Afghanistan before leaving his position.
Motivation for the decision came with months worth of negative reports from inside the country.
Insurgent forces have claimed numerous victories over coalition forces on the battlefield (although usually against the Afghan army); casualties within the Afghan army continue to skyrocket; fear that the Islamic State may be gaining momentum in the more mountainous, rural areas has also begun to grip Washington.
Despite acknowledging that troops will stay in country, Obama also points out “America’s combat mission is Afghanistan [is over, but] our commitment Afghanistan and its people endures. As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as [a] safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”
Highlighted is the administration’s ideological shift to something more closely related to what we saw in Iraq with Operation New Dawn.
To support this decision, units will most likely receive six and nine-month deployments into the theater.
Recently the Taliban had claimed its largest victory since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, seizing the northern city of Kunduz from Afghan troops. A counteroffensive has been initiated and although successful ongoing fighting is frequent.
The Taliban’s sphere of influence is now at its largest point from 2001 to present-day according to a report from the United Nations.
Was the president right in recognizing the presence of troops in the region? I believe so. This is also one of the only foreign policy points I’ve ever agreed with him on.
We saw in Iraq towards the end of OIF and into OND (and the end of combat operations) that we were able to achieve relative stability within the country. As soon as we left however, a power vacuum developed, and we’ve been left with the quagmire that is present-day Iraq and Syria.
That said, I don’t personally agree that it’s time for us to end combat operations in Afghanistan, at least not fully. Granted, you can’t ever kill every insurgent, but given the UN data pointing to an increase in the influence of the Taliban, we’ve obviously still work to do (i.e. capturing/killing those with the most influence).
Looking through publically available data it’s also apparent that US casualties in the theater are roughly one third of what they were last year (and thankfully so). Again, we even saw in the later OIFs and OND the decrease in US casualties.
The main complaint of many politicians is of the financial drain our presence costs, that and that “we shouldn’t be there anymore in the first place”. The fact of the matter remains- we are there, and we owe it to the people and to our warfighters to see this through to the end, so that we don’t have another post-OND Iraq.
About the author: Andrew Farquharson is an Iraq Campaign veteran and an ex-cavalry scout currently living the dream in Newport, Rhode Island as a college student. Aside from writing for 11Bravos his hobbies include mountain climbing, shooting guns and convincing women they should date him. Comments or hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or, follow him on Instagram @Lord_Farquharson