The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, said recently, “The plan in Afghanistan is to be successful.” He added, “[W]hile some folks might hear that we’re departing in 2014 … we’re actually going to be here for a long time.” Asked about the number of American troops that will remain, Allen said that as part of an agreement with the Afghans, “We’re talking about forces that will provide an advisory capacity.”
That commitment echoes pledges that the White House has made. Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden said, “It’s Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s Afghans who must build their nation. … And we will continue to stand ready to help you in that effort after 2014.”
That dedication bumps up against the wishes of an American public increasingly skeptical that a viable and independent Afghan state can be built at a reasonable price. The cynicism is understandable. From “the war we must win” to “clear, hold, and build,” officials have been promising Americans for years that victory is right around the corner, even as their own reporting indicates that 10 years on, we appear to be going in circles.
Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute.