As Afghan Mission Worsens, Exit Plan Is Proposed: 204 Congressmembers Call for Accellerated Withdrawal
February 18, 2012
Tom Hayden / The Peace and Justice Resource Center
As the Afghanistan crisis deepens, "there is evidence of a continued divide between the White House and the military over the pace of withdrawal." This dispute between civilian and military leadership is expected to worsen if President Obama accelerates the withdrawals past the 33,000 mark later this year. The US military (defying its Constitutional limitations) openly opposes the pace of the drawdown, which already is too slow for most Democrats and the peace movement.
As Afghan Fissures Worsen, Exit Plan Is Proposed
Tom Hayden / The Peace and Justice Resource Center
(February 15, 2012) -- As the Afghanistan crisis deepens, "there is evidence of a continued divide between the White House and the military over the pace of withdrawal." (New York Times, February 2, 2012) This dispute between civilian and military leadership is expected to worsen if President Obama accelerates the withdrawals past the 33,000 mark later this year, and as American troops are shifted out of combat roles by next year.
The US military openly opposes the pace of the drawdown, which already is too slow for most Democrats and the peace movement, because the resulting panic in Kabul could cause an implosion if efforts at a diplomatic settlement bog down.
In addition to reports of repeated attacks by Afghan troops on their American allies, an embarrassing NATO report shows that captured Taliban prisoners believe they are winning the war, undermining the claims that they are being pacified. (New York Times, February 2, 2012) One astonishing finding of the report is that the Taliban has rejected its previous alliance with Al Qaeda and no longer give logistical or military support to the terrorist network. That finding further undermines the state rationale for the war.
But the prospect of making peace with a confident and undefeated Taliban may be impossible for the military, the Republican leadership, the mainstream media, and many Americans to accept.
A face-saving prescription for ending the war may be at hand, however, in the recently-published "Afghanistan: The Best Way to Peace," by Anatol Lieven in the February 9 New York Review of Books. Lieven's pedigree includes stints at The Financial Times, the Carnegie Foundation, King's College London, and the New America Foundation. Its argument deserves to be read widely, but what is important is its projection of a settlement that all sides eventually must accept:
* A fixed timetable for the complete withdrawal of US troops;
* The exclusion of Al Qaeda and other "international terrorist groups" from zones under Taliban control;
* A Kabul government headed by "men the Taliban would see as good Muslims and Afghan patriots";
* Transfer of power from the center to the regions;
* A new Afghan constitution negotiated with the Taliban;
* De facto - "though not formal" - Taliban control of Greater Kandahar and Hakkani control of Greater Paktika provinces;
* The complete ban on poppy cultivation and heroin production in areas under their control, as offered by the Taliban in 1999-2001.
Such a scenario perhaps lurks hidden in the minds of Obama and Biden, who has said, "the Taliban per se is not an enemy." Cease-fire and geographic enclave proposals have appeared in foreign policy journals. But Lieven is depressingly clear that no such proposal has been drawn up by Washington, and that the Pentagon still demands bases in Afghanistan "even at the price of making a settlement with the Taliban impossible" in order to keep striking at Al Qaeda, which Lieven finds appalling and simplistic.
Citing knowledgeable works by Antonio Giustozzi -- "probably the world's greatest expert on the Afghan Taliban" -- and Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, Lievan argues, "the Taliban leadership will not allow Al Qaeda to wreck an agreement that the Taliban sees as acceptable."
Nor will the Taliban be able to storm and take over Kabul, at least if the US, Russia and India draw the line there. He suggests that the Western goal must be "to preserve the cities, at least as areas where women can continue to enjoy more rights and opportunities in the hope that a new culture will gradually spread from them to the countryside."
There is a more apocalyptic scenario which might focus the mind of Beltway decision-makers. Lieven is correct in writing that US-Pakistan tensions are so grave that Pakistan's troops will fight any American soldiers they find on their soil. Or if ordered by their leaders not to fight the Americans, "the unity of the army could be in question -- and if the army breaks apart, not only will immense munitions and expertise flow to terrorists, but the Pakistan state will collapse."
Lieven may be quite optimistic in his projections. The Taliban, for example, may overplay their hand and refuse to accept a negotiated compromise. The US military may assert that Obama's gradual withdrawal is a surrender that endangers American lives. The Karzai government may implode without a replacement in site. Lieven omits mention of the drone war against Pakistan, which daily stokes the fires of nationalist hatred. It is impossible to imagine talking with the Taliban unless accompanied by a cessation of drone attacks on their Pakistan sanctuaries.
Obama's plan -- 33,000 troops gone by September, a shift away from US combat roles by mid-2013, 68,000 more troops out by 2014, an unbridled increase in Special Forces commando teams, dickering over permanent bases -- may be what passes for realism in Washington but exudes an excess of confidence bred by power. Hopefully someone in the White House inner circle understands that the US presence in Afghanistan is something like sand in an hourglass.
US Afghan Allies Attacking US Troops
Tom Hayden / PJRC
(February 15, 2012) -- Allied Afghan soldiers are stepping up the killing of American troops, according to a recently declassified US military report covering the period through May 2011. "The sense of hatred is growing rapidly," according to an Afghan officer who said the Americans are "rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language."
The report concludes that "lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated, they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat… unprecedented between 'allies' in modern military history."
Afghan forces attacked their US allies 26 times, killing 58 Western troops, during 2007-2011, most often since October 2009. The report, "A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," was carried out by a behavioral scientist who surveyed hundreds of Afghan and American soldiers.
McGovern, Jones, Lee Ask for a More Rapid Withdrawal, Support Shift from US Combat Role
Tom Hayden / PJRC
WASHINGTON (February 14, 2012) -- House members led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) are circulating a moderate letter commending the Obama administration for announcing an end to the US combat role in Afghanistan in 2013, one year ahead of the previous timetable. Many of the signers supported an accelerated withdrawal in a resolution last year, which attracted 204 House votes.
The letter and updated list of signatories are below and at Friends Comittee on National Legislation
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our support for the Administration's announcement on February 1st that the United States will complete combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year.
From information reported in the media, the U.S. intends to transition from major combat operations in Afghanistan to a "training, advice and assist role" by the middle-to-latter part of 2013. We applaud this announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to accelerate the transition away from combat operations, and it provides assurance that the timeframe outlined in your 2009 speech at West Point will be carried out. As you know, many of us support an even more rapid withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan.
The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, as recent public opinion polls indicate. The desire by the American people for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan was reflected in votes taken in Congress last year, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during their respective debates on amendments offered by Representatives McGovern and Jones and by Senator Merkley to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These votes show there is strong bipartisan political support to take bold steps regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The past 10 years have cost America dearly in the blood and sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families, and in our nation's fiscal health and security. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda's safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan.
While questions remain about the details of the announced transition -- when and how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, the costs and the savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations -- the February 1st announcement clearly signals that now is the moment to initiate the transition, end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.
Sincerely, Members of Congress
The 62 signers as of 2/16, 1:42PM are:
Jim McGovern (MA)
Walter Jones (NC)
Barbara Lee (CA)
Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (TN)
John Garamendi (CA)
Justin Amash (MI)
Janice Hahn (CA)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Sam Farr (CA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
John Lewis (GA)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
Judy Chu (CA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Henry Waxman (CA)
Bruce Braley (IA)
Ben Ray Luján (NM)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Mike Honda (CA)
Chellie Pingree (ME)
Pete Stark (CA)
Mike Thompson (CA)
Bob Filner (CA)
Barney Frank (MA)
Keith Ellison (MN)
Jackie Speier (CA)
Ed Towns (NY)
Jan Schakowsky (IL)
Charlie Gonzalez (TX)
Carolyn Maloney (NY)
Gwen Moore (WI)
Steve Cohen (TN)
Charles Gonzalez (TX)
Jim McDermott (WA)
Niki Tsongas (MA)
David Cicilline (RI)
Jared Polis (CO)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)
Paul Tonko (NY)
Mike Quigley (IL)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
Maurice Hinchey (NY)
Anna Eshoo (CA)
José Serrano (NY)
Louise Slaughter (NY)
Donald Payne (NJ)
Zoe Lofgren (CA)
Richard Neal (MA)
Earl Blumenauer (OR)
Grace Napolitano (CA)
Pete Visclosky (IN)
George Miller (CA)
Adam Smith (WA)
Rick Larsen (WA)
Peter DeFazio (OR)
Jerrold Nadler (NY)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR)
Laura Richardson (CA)
Kurt Schrader (OR)
Michael Michaud (ME)