Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

  Obama: We’ll be in Afghanistan forever

Consider these two starkly juxtaposed sentences from President Obama’s West Point speech tonight:

And as commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.


That makes no damned sense, as critics and political opponents will point out again and again in the coming years. If Afghanistan constitutes a “vital national interest”, then the US cannot afford to walk away from the country until all tranquility breaks out.

In fact Obama later went on to box himself in even more decisively:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.

This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al-Qaeda can operate with impunity.

We must keep the pressure on al-Qaeda.

[…]

To abandon this area now and to rely only on efforts against al-Qaeda from a distance would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al-Qaeda and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.


If al Qaeda remains permanently wedded to a base of terrorist operations in Afghanistan directed at the US, as Obama asserts, then what possible justification is there for setting a withdrawal date in 2011? Or for talking about any manner of withdrawal as long as “pressure” is needed on al Qaeda? Why “abandon” Afghanistan starting in 2011 when it’s “an unacceptable risk” now?

Obama’s attempt to justify the inherent contradictions of his position doesn’t come close to addressing our supposedly vital stake in Afghanistan or the dangerousness of al Qaeda. What he says is simply that the cost of an open-ended commitment is too great to bear, and besides a timetable for withdrawal is needed to force the Afghan government to take responsibility for its own security. All that tells us is that the American government has little to work with in Afghanistan, a country that by the way is vital to our national security.

Obama’s pronouncements that the US has “vital” interests in Afghanistan imply that we’re never pulling out. He may or may not fully realize that.

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