Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Announces Final Afghanistan Withdrawal by End-2016

President Barack Obama has announced that all U.S. troops will be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

In a statement from the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he expects to reduce U.S. troops levels from the roughly 32,000 which remain there now to 9,800 by the end of this year, and to cut that number by about half by the end of 2015.

After this year, U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan will be used only for training and counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda, he said.

The withdrawal plan will depend, however, on the signing of a pending Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Washington and the next president of Afghanistan, who is expected to take office by the end of the summer after presidential elections that are set to take place in June.

Without the BSA, according to senior administration officials who briefed reports, the U.S. would resort to the so-called “zero option”—or withdrawing all of its troops at the end of the year.

President Hamid Karzai, whose relations with Washington have become increasingly rocky during Obama’s tenure, has refused to sign the BSA, insisting that the decision be left to his successor. The two candidates in next month’s run-off election, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have publicly supported the agreement.

In his statement, Obama put the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the context of what he depicted as a larger transition in Washington’s global military strategy, including its ongoing struggle against radical Islamists linked to Al Qaeda.

“The bottom line is, it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way.”

“By the end of this year, we will have less than 10,000. In addition to bringing our troops home, this new chapter in American foreign policy will allow us to redirect some of the resources saved by ending these wars to respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism, while addressing a broader set of priorities around the globe,” he declared.

Obama was making an implicit reference to his administration’s promised “rebalancing” of U.S. strategic assets toward the Asia-Pacific region, as well as more recent concerns about Russian intentions toward its closest neighbours.

He also suggested that Washington will not leave Afghanistan having accomplished all of the objectives for which it first sent troops under George W. Bush in October 2001, in the weeks that followed the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
“I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said. “…We have to recognise that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one. The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”

Obama’s announcement came under immediate attack from neo-conservatives and other right-wing hawks who have long insisted that Kabul will need more trainers to protect and stabilise the country after the end of 2014, the date on which the U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries had previously agreed would mark the transfer of all combat responsibilities to Afghan government forces.

They were particularly angry about Obama’s promise to remove all U.S. troops by the end of 2016.

“The President came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited,” said Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte in a joint statement. “[He] appears to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq.”

“Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region. … [H]is decision on Afghanistan will fuel the growing perception worldwide that America is unreliable, distracted, and unwilling to lead,” the three senators insisted, in what has become a standard theme in Republican and neo-conservative attacks on Obama’s foreign policy.

“Putting aside the fact that [10,000] is the lowest number military advisors estimated was necessary to maintain training and some counter-terrorism capability in country over not just one year but several, the decision to halve and then zero out those forces by 2016 (sic) is a reminder not only of how seriously unserious this president on strategic matters can be but also how cynically partisan he is,” wrote Gary Schmitt, a national security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in the neo-conservative ‘Weekly Standard’ blog.

Similar concerns were voiced by Gen. David Barno (ret.), who led U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and currently a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank influential with the administration.

“While the number [of troops] for next year seems about right, the publicly announced speedy departure plan for those troops will now unquestionably sow doubt among American friends and Afghan supporters,” he noted.

“But here at home, the biggest and – for the President – the most important takeaway …will be the certainty that by the end of 2016, America’s longest war will truly be over. After 13 years and thousands of U.S. casualties, hundreds of billion dollars spent, and wholly inconclusive results, today’s speech marks the end. Few Americans will mourn this war’s passing,” he added.

The announcement also came on the eve of a key NATO meeting at which Washington will seek commitments from its allies to provide around 4,000 additional troops to operate alongside U.S. troops next year and about half that number through 2016, according to administration officials.

Those officials expressed confidence that Afghanistan’s own army and police were sufficiently strong to hold off any major military challenge by the Taliban, and pointed to their performance during the first round of the presidential and provincial elections in April as evidence of major progress in U.S. and NATO training efforts to date.

Continued training of Afghan forces, combined with preventing Al Qaeda from re-establishing a presence in Afghanistan, will remain the two main foci of U.S. troops there once full responsibility for security is transferred to Afghan forces at the end of the year, they stressed.

They also emphasised that the recent developments across the Greater Middle East and North Africa required adjustments to Washington’s counter-terrorism strategy.

“[A]s we have seen Al Qaeda core [in Afghanistan and Pakistan] pushed back and we’ve seen regional affiliates seek to gain a foothold in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa, what makes sense is a strategy that is not designed for the threat that existed in 2001 or 2004,” one official told reporters in a conference call briefing before Obama’s appearance.

“We need a strategy for how it exists in 2014 and 2016, and that is going to involve far more partnership and support across the entire region and less of the type of presence that the United States had in Afghanistan over the last 13 years.”

Jim Lobe blogs about foreign policy at www.lobelog.com

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Established in Baltimore in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States—and also among the most aggressively anti-Arab ones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and chosen by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


Print Friendly

The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


Print Friendly

The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


Print Friendly

The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Print Friendly

Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


Print Friendly

This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


Print Friendly

President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


RightWeb
share