Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future. To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.What's the big deal about safe havens? Al Qaeda isn't in Afghanistan, they're in Pakistan, which has a functioning government and is supposed to be our ally. The 9/11 attack was planned in Germany. Terrorists don't need safe havens, they just need hatred. And if they set up camps again, we blast them to pieces. What am I missing?
And what about the Afghans?
The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation – by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand - America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect – to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.The thing is, many people of the Afghan south think the Americans are occupiers, and the Karzai government isn't any more welcome in their villages than the Americans. Some may be Islamic fanatics who want to re-establish the Caliphate, but most seem just to want to be left completely alone. Why can't we leave them alone? And what's with the "never your patron" line? It seems like a very patronizing way to suggest a non-existent equality.
And here is what Obama said about the timeline for withdrawal:
I recognize that there are a range of concerns about our approach. . . . Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort – one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.A semi-plausible explanation, but without much of a ring of truth, and certainly without any sort of boldness or strength.
I find the whole thing to be a muddle. But maybe, now, that is the best we can expect from this President, in this situation. He obviously fears looking weak, and he wants to help the non-fundamentalists of Afghanistan keep their freedoms. But he does not have unlimited money or men, and most Americans just don't care about central Asia. So he picks a middle course, as we always knew he would.
I feel sad.