Obama's rash Afghan decision

The new timetable accelerates the original plan by more than a year before U.S. troops were scheduled to withdraw. With the conflict at a stalemate, Mr. Obama’s decision emboldens the insurgents and clearly tips the scales in their favor.  It contributes to their momentum and sense of inevitability of victory.

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Although the Afghan National Army has made gradual progress in recent years, it is simply not prepared to assume full combat responsibilities according to the new timetable.  The U.S. switch to a training role after at the end of 2013 will not suffice.

Mr. Obama’s hasty decision exponentially increases the potential for a return to power by radicals in Afghanistan. Despite reinvigorated attempts at negotiations, the insurgents will simply sit and wait, buy time and shrewdly play one side off against another.  They will effectively use the rhetoric of reconciliation to create the perception of progress. All along, they are simply on standby as the withdrawal clock ticks.

Mr. Obama’s rash choice also threatens to undermine the basic, but tenuous, stability that has marked Afghan policy since the troop surge in 2009. In addition, it threatens the long-term sustainability of whatever modest progress has been achieved.  It will likely trigger a reversion to the disarray and confusion of the 2001-2008 era.  Furthermore, ordinary Afghans will be further discouraged from cooperating with the international mission.

By putting a firm date on U.S. withdrawal prematurely, Mr. Obama renounces critical U.S. leadership in Afghanistan and beyond. It also precipitates the international rush for the exit door.  NATO allies will only follow suit more rapidly.  It will inevitably impact strategic thinking for future missions. Ultimately, Mr. Obama’s hasty decision sets a dangerous precedent for U.S. foreign policy and global security in an increasingly unstable world.

Marco Vicenzino is the director of Global Strategy Project, a geo-political risk advisory firm.