Afghanistan: 'Job is not done'
By The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 9:10 p.m.
WASHINGTON — It's the same debate, the same numbers and practically the same plan, but the White House is working harder to keep troops in Afghanistan than it did in similar but failed discussions in Iraq in 2011.
Security remains shaky in both war zones, but current and former U.S. officials say the Obama administration cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan after a dozen years of fighting and an ongoing threat by al-Qaida and its extremist Taliban allies. Defeating al-Qaida and bolstering Afghan forces to prevent the terror network's return there have been top priorities for President Obama since he took office, while ending the war in Iraq was the fulfillment of a campaign promise.
“We've made a lot of progress against al-Qaida, but the job is not done,” Doug Lute, the top White House military adviser on Afghanistan, told reporters this week. “The Afghan National Security Forces are a work in progress.”
The United States has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 as recently as 2010. Just how many troops might remain is at the heart of widespread discussion in Washington, where Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will meet with Obama on Friday.
As initially in Iraq, U.S. officials are considering keeping between 3,000 and 15,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014. That would not happen, however, if troops are denied legal immunity from prosecution in Afghanistan — which ultimately is what ended the same negotiations in Iraq.
“We've seen this movie so many times,” said Sen. John McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who remains troubled over the Iraq withdrawal. He urged the White House to keep more than a few thousand troops in Afghanistan “to make a difference and not just become targets for attacks by a resurgent Taliban.”
Karzai met Wednesday with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and three members of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. Asked what number of U.S. forces he would like to be in the country, Karzai declined to answer and joked that he was told by the “organizer of the Senate” to keep quiet.
A Pentagon report to Congress in December concluded that only one of 23 Afghan National Army battalions was judged to be capable of operating in the field on its own — and even then needed international security advisers.
Afghanistan was dubbed “Obama's war” because the president surged troops there in 2009 to chase out extremist militants and eliminate their ability to return. By contrast, Obama as a candidate for president had called Iraq a “dumb war” and made ending it a campaign pledge.
However, the Obama administration negotiated with Baghdad throughout 2011 to keep troops in Iraq as a sort of insurance policy to block Iran from meddling in Iraq's Shiite-led government and, in turn, re-ignite the country's Sunni insurgency. Ultimately, Iraq's parliament refused to renew an agreement to give legal immunity to thousands of American forces, and the military left at the end of that year as required under a deadline set in 2008 by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Study says regular pot use affects the brain
- U.S. to have front-row seat for lunar eclipse
- Health insurance subsidies under Obamacare to cost slightly less than previously thought
- Dangers of Heartbleed bug grow every day
- Investment analyst to get Medal of Honor