By The Times and Democrat Editorial Board
THE ISSUE: Afghanistan
OUR VIEW: Politics must be part of solution
President Barack Obama is hastening the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, announcing that 10,000 would come home this year and another 23,000 will be withdrawn by the end of summer 2012.
“We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength,” Obama said in announcing the plan. He cited serious losses inflicted on the Taliban.
The move is not without controversy, and pits Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ assessment against that of the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus.
The National Security Network, an organization focused on national security policy, makes the case that beginning the transition means recognizing the successes of the core counterterrorism mission — with 20 of the top 30 terrorist targets in the region having been killed on Obama’s watch. It means putting Afghans in the lead following an increase in resources that helped stabilize the situation.
“America’s commitment in Afghanistan has been costly and lengthy. Troop reductions will allow Afghans to take responsibility for their own country and begin to align American interests in the country with our commitment there,” according to NSN.
The next challenge lies in the overall mission, military but above all political and economic. Troops that remain should focus on continuing to root out terrorists. The secondary focus for the security mission should be training Afghan security forces to take the lead in protecting their country.
Importantly, making security gains will require a renewed focus on a political solution, both between parties in Afghanistan and regionally; governance reforms; and fostering sustainable economic growth.
The Afghan government has reported talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban. As much as some will criticize such an approach, it is inevitable and necessary.
As Gates has stated, “We have all said all along that a political outcome is the way most wars end.”
And Michael A. Cohen and Michael Wahid Hanna wrote: “The death of Osama bin Laden has provided the Obama administration with a dramatic inflection point that could allow all sides to begin the process of grappling with what are unpalatable, but essential, steps toward political resolution. For this opportunity not to be wasted, the United States must fully commit to a political strategy and ensure that its military might is employed in service of the essential goal of ending this war.”