Our Reaction to President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech

Simone Campbell, SSS
June 23, 2011

President Obama announced his plan for drawing the Afghanistan war to a close…eventually. We at NETWORK believe that this war should end soon. Military leaders have said that there is no military solution to stability in Afghanistan. The president said that long-term peace is up to the Afghan leaders. So why the long timeline and no final withdrawal date?

It seems to us that it is because of “mission creep.” What started out as crippling Al Qaeda (which the president says is accomplished) has changed to be ending Taliban rule. This is not a mission that the U.S. has a strategic interest in pursuing.

While the president says that we are being “strategic as we are resolute,” it is imperative that there be real peace negotiations among all of the players in the country and the region.

In our view, the pressure to achieve a lasting peace would be enhanced if there was not the specter of 3 more years of war. A real end date in the next 18 months would focus the attention of all parties to take responsibility for their country.

NETWORK’s checklist for what should be in the speech:

  • Troop withdrawal of at least 30,000 troops in the next 6 to 9 months. The president called for a reduction of 33,000 troops in 14 months.
  • A plan for investment in development efforts which includes supporting democracy in Afghanistan and training Afghan forces to secure the state. The president referenced the need to support the Afghan government, but did not announce a plan for how to do it.
  • A plan for political negotiations in Afghanistan which includes engaging all regional actors. The president spoke of a summit in Chicago in May 2012 hosted by NATO allies and partners. It was not clear if this would include regional actors as well and if this would be larger than a military summit. We urge the president to use this announced meeting to move ahead on the diplomatic front and end the military operation.
  • A timeline for total U.S. troop withdrawal and a shift of security and leadership over to Afghanistan by at least January 2014. The president did use the 2014 date for a complete shift of responsibility to the Afghan government, but did not specify when in 2014. The United States does not need three more years in which to accomplish a transition to Afghan control.
  • A long-term peacemaking plan that supports a democracy by the people and for the people of Afghanistan. There was no mention of a specific plan for the support of democracy in Afghanistan. The president referenced that as a desired result by did not put forward any specific initiatives.