‘As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and most importantly, many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war.
Others will ask, why don’t we leave immediately? That answer is also clear: We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen’
Was our goal just to eradicate Al Qaeda and the plotters of 09/11…or also to prevent conditions that would again allow them safe haven? How deep do we have to get, and how long do we have to be there to achieve our objectives? There doesn’t seem to be much that’s new here.
Especially during the Iraq invasion and before COIN got going we lost some gains in Afghanistan. It’s unclear now advise and assist will secure its aims with Karzai in power, the endemic corruption, poverty, geographic isolation, decades of war, the Taliban still waiting, and the mullah-led, wild FATA region next door. As an interested citizen, I still haven’t been convinced the timeline is necessary, though there is a case for it.
Even after a pullout, or a timeline at the moment, we are are still potentially engaged. In fact, the same logic leaves us potentially engaged (through military, security and intelligence agencies at least) with broad swathes of the Muslim World that may also harbor Al-Qaeda and affiliates now or at some point in the future. Political breakdown is but one potential cause.
Related On This Site: Form Foreign Affairs: ‘Stephen Biddle and Max Boot Discuss U.S. Afghanistan Policy’