Currently, Afghanistan is obviously a big subject at the G8 conference, with France's new government already having promised to remove troops. Meanwhile, General John Allen has announced his departure as commander of forces in Afghanistan, while the President just returned from Afghanistan. And, it seems not coincidental that The New York Times Sunday edition ran a piece on President Obama's last shift on the war.
Combined, everything is telling me that a major announcement is coming, very soon. It'd be a welcome change, as VoteVets.org has long called for a shift towards an Advise, Train and Assist (ATA) role, which is a bridge towards a more limited counter-terror mission in the region, with the war in Afghanistan itself effectively over.[..]
That's why VoteVets.org has always called on President Obama to adopt a counter-terror mission in the region. Counter-terror operations target the enemy where they are, and take them out. It's the strategy that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaeda targets around the world. It costs less in money and lives. It doesn't deplete our troops and our military. And it doesn't put military men and women in the position of having to win over an entire country, under the real risk that a few bad troops could topple the entire house of cards.
So, what's changed? Operationally, there's been a debate within military circles whether the planned summer offensive would be effective given the three points I raised before -- that the Afghan Army is shrinking, U.S. Forces are coming down from surge numbers, and perhaps most importantly, it's important to note that each NATO country controls its own area in Afghanistan.
France, for example, contributes heavily in Regional Command East, or RC-East (which is part of that 70 percent of the population laid out above). RC-East is made up of about 14 provinces and is larger than Pennsylvania. When France leaves, there's a huge gap to fill. If other NATO partners follow suit, the gaps become bigger and bigger, making the current strategy and timeline dead in the water. This wasn't lost on the President, as he considered General Allen's resignation and replacement.
While it might seem like the two factors above forced the President's hand, let me make clear that isn't the case -- if the President announces what I think he will, this is leadership. There have been plenty of men -- from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush -- who were too stubborn to face facts, and sent more and more troops into a situation that called for fewer. We often confuse that bravado with leadership. It's not. There's no doubt in my mind that some commanders wanted more troops and more time. It takes guts and leadership to look at the facts, weigh their opinions, and say "Enough is enough. It's time to do what's right by our troops."
It may be leadership, but it's also a pretty damn good chess move in an election year. Or a cynical one. Honestly, I don't care if it gets our troops out of what looked like a forever occupation.
But I am extremely tickled at the thought of John Boehner's sputtering face the next time he says we must cut spending to address the debt ceiling and President Obama can turn to him with a big smile and say, "John, I have $300 million dollars a day you can cut right here."