Time will tell what the candidates for Afghan president do, but the time frame for U.S. withdrawal is rapidly approaching.
There are over 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and every last one of them will need to be flown — not driven — out of the country. That will take a significant number of air resources and must begin many months before the current December mandate for the U.S. presence expires. This situation is all too familiar to those who witnessed the hurried withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, when the Obama administration failed to secure an agreement with the government of Iraq, resulting in the total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the country.
Neither Vice President Joe Biden — the president point person for Iraq — nor then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were able to seal the deal. Since then, Iraq has been plagued by violence with al-Qaida retaking cities in western Iraq as many of the security gains the U.S. made were lost.
Just as in Iraq, the president had the opportunity to commit to a strategy and the resources required to stabilize Afghanistan during his policy review two years ago. Instead, he chose to side with his political advisers — a group of people many seasoned Washington policy hands describe as a bunch of petulant, inexperienced campaign staffers with big titles.
This is the same man that was said to have appointed Gen. Eric Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs for telling the Bush administration more troops were needed for the occupation of Iraq.
Obama admires generals who tell their elected leaders what is required to get the job done — so long as that elected leader isn’t him.
Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.