Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saving face in Afghanistan

In a bid to reassure Democrats who oppose the deployment of another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and to pressure Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reform his corruption-riddled government, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that some U.S. troops would begin coming home in 19 months.

In so doing, however, Obama may have set himself up for further setbacks.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, their allies and their patrons in Pakistan and the Middle East may see the deadline as signaling a lack of U.S. staying power, diluting incentives to insurgents to switch sides or engage in meaningful negotiations on a political accord.

Instead, they may persevere in their fight, believing they can run out the clock, further erode support in the United States for the war as congressional elections loom in 2010, while pumping up their own ranks. Some members of the U.S.-led international force have already announced their intention to leave.

This criticism assumes Obama wants to win. He doesn't. He simply wants to save face before he loses, by making it look like he tried.

Unfortunately, American service men and women will be killed unnecessarily in the interim.

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