Monday, June 27, 2011
The United States must get its troops out of Afghanistan -- the sooner the better.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to defang the terrorist threat being harbored in that country. The initial military campaign was effective, but stabilizing the nation has proven to be far more difficult -- and costly. More than 1,600 Americans have died. This war is now costing taxpayers more than $2 billion a week.
Last week, President Obama announced plans to withdraw 33,000 troops -- about a third of U.S. forces -- from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. The expectation is that all U.S. troops will be out by 2014.
If the president was seeking political middle ground, he found it. Yet, he doesn't have much -- if any -- political cover. Obama is drawing heat from the doves as well as the hawks.
We would prefer a far more aggressive timetable for getting all the U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
We understand this decision must be prudent from the perspective of military strategy even if it is driven by politics, but the president needs to make it clear the U.S. is serious about getting out of Afghanistan. A target date set three years out does not have the sense of urgency that's needed.
Apparently the president and his top military advisors fully discussed the timetable for withdrawal. Those in uniform urged the president to adopt a slower timetable for withdrawal.
Yet, Obama opted to be more aggressive than the military leaders advised, although his approach, nevertheless, is still within their comfort zone.
"More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course. But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"... al-Qaeda is on their heels, and the Taliban's momentum in the south has been checked. We have made extraordinary progress against the mission we have been assigned and are, therefore, now in a position to begin a responsible transition out of Afghanistan."
Only in hindsight will we know whether Obama is being too aggressive or not aggressive enough.
But, at this point, it seems Obama's withdrawal plan is going in the right direction -- although the pace is still too slow.
The ultimate goal is to turn full control of Afghanistan to its people. The U.S. should pick up the pace and do that in less than three years.