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Obama’s Afghanistan policy reflects U.S. war fatigue

Written by kumaran   // June 24, 2011   // Comments Off

Barack Obama

Barack Obama didn’t start the war in Afghanistan, but he endorsed it as a presidential candidate and escalated it as president. Now with his re-election campaign getting underway and Americans eager to end the conflict, he’s beginning to back his way out.

“America,” he said this week in a nationally televised address, “it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.” It’s been nearly a decade since the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 drew America and its allies into Afghanistan.

There are roughly 100,000 American soldiers there now and 42,000 from other foreign nations such as Germany, France, Canada and the United Kingdom. Before taking office, Obama criticized his predecessor, George W. Bush, for failing to commit enough troops to the fight to win it. Once in power he essentially tripled the number, adding thousands gradually in 2009 and then a burst of 30,000 more, hoping that the surge in troop strength would end the stalemate.

Now the president plans to end the surge, withdrawing 10,000 troops this year and fully 33,000 by September of 2012, two months before he’s up for re-election. Obama says the surge achieved its goals. Many experts believe that it didn’t deliver permanent gains but did make progress. Al Qaeda has been largely pushed out of the country. It’s sheltering in neighboring Pakistan, where American troops killed its leader, Osama bin Laden.

But the Taliban is certainly still there. One estimate by the United Nations suggests that last month may have been the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the war began. Senior U.S. military leaders reportedly wanted to keep fighting with as much of their manpower in Afghanistan as possible, but the president had to make other calculations at home.

Our most recent poll found that 74 percent of Americans want a partial or complete withdrawal. That’s the kind of number politicians notice. ”There are a lot of reservations in the Congress about the war in Afghanistan and our level of commitment,” said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

“There are concerns among the American people who are tired of a decade of war. So, the president obviously has to take those matters into consideration.” So even with the Taliban still intact and entrenched, Afghanistan is a two-billion-dollar-a-week war that many Americans are no longer determined to win.


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