According to the New York Times, president Obama has “significantly lowered” the bar on how success in Afghanistan is defined.
In four years Obama has gone from “we must never forget, this is not a war of choice, this is a war of necessity” and “this is a war that we have to win” to “Afghan good enough.” According to the Times, Obama’s new definition of victory in his war of necessity that must be won is Afghan stability and no unimpeded Al Qaeda safe havens:
“The goal is to have an Afghanistan again that has a degree of stability such that forces like Al Qaeda and associated groups cannot have safe haven unimpeded, which could threaten the region and threaten U.S. and other interests in the world.”
In today’s New York Times, David E. Sanger reports that Obama will announce at the NATO summit that “all combat operations led by American forces will cease in summer 2013, when the United States and other NATO forces move to a ‘support role’ whether the Afghan military can secure the country or not.” Worse, Obama planned this retreat without the benefit of military advice:
“When the president and a half-dozen White House aides began to plan for the withdrawal, the generals were cut out entirely. There was no debate, and there were no leaks.”
If Obama doesn’t care “whether the Afghan military can secure the country or not,” why wait until 2013? Is it because of the presidential election? Perhaps Obama doesn’t want to run for reelection in the middle of his Afghan retreat. As Obama explained to the Russians at the UN he’ll have more flexibility after the election.
Obama’s position on Afghanistan changes, or evolves, even more quickly than his position on gay marriage.
In 2008, Presidential candidate Obama said “This is a war that we have to win.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: A New Strategy for a New World, Washington, D.C., 7/15/08).
In 2009, President Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention that the Afghan war was a war of necessity:
“As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight, and we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy.
But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaida would plot to kill more Americans.
So this is not only a war worth fighting; this is a — this is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
And while President Obama ignored military commanders in planning his Afghan retreat, presidential candidate Obama promised to act with “proper regard” to the advice of military commanders.
Nevertheless, Obama has decided to declare victory and retreat from Afghanistan regardless of whether the Afghan military can secure the country or not.