The Night We Lost The War In Afghanistan

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It seems to me that the President threw in the towel on Afghanistan this evening. In setting a date certain to begin withdrawal he appears to have told the Taliban and Al-Qaeda exactly how they can prevail.

Just wait us out.

Having said that, maybe this is all to the good. Afghanistan has swollowed invaders for centuries. It is an impossibly difficult country in which to wage conventional war and the fractured nature of its politics makes it nigh on impossible to build a credible government which can enforce domestic order.

Perhaps this will lead to a credible effort that focuses on shoring up the region. The fixation on Afghanistan and by extension Pakistan has done damage to our relations with India, possibly the most important country in the region. If out of this we create a renewed emphasis on building strong ties to that country that involve military, political and economic ties then arguably we can emerge from this episode with a viable strategy for influencing events in the region.

Unfortunately, Obama, a man I voted for and held high hopes for, delivered a speech tonight that reeked of political calculation. He attempted to appease the entire spectrum and clearly the timetable was dictated by election politics, not principle. It’s dispiriting to see Obama as leader emerging as not so much that as Obama as politician first and foremost. Probably I was naively optimistic last January but one is always allowed to hope.

This will pass. Afghanistan will now fade to the back pages as the combatants bide their time. No doubt casualties will decrease along with hostilities and we will hopefully withdraw with some claim of victory. Then the Taliban and Al- Qaeda will have their way with the country.  That won’t be pretty.

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