Afghanistan: war without end?

Article by David Swanson.

Afghanistan was supposed to be the campaign promise that President Barack Obama actually kept. He said he would escalate that war, and sure enough he did. Is he now going back on promises he’s made as president, by proposing to withdraw 2.5% of US forces in July?

Here are the relevant promises:

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home … [O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended – because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” – President Barack Obama, 1 December 2009

“I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture.” – President Barack Obama, 15 April 2011

“In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.” – Vice President Joe Biden, quoted in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise

But let’s first review how we got here. When loyal Democrats heard candidate Obama say he would escalate the war as president, they mistakenly understood him to say he would end it. Progressive bloggers have planned a panel for next month to discuss their disappointment with this “broken promise” that was actually kept.

President Obama sent the first additional 17,000 troops before he’d been in office a month and explicitly before coming up with any plan for Afghanistan. Sending the troops was, apparently, an end in itself. Then, Obama sent more. He got the total up from 33,700 US troops in late 2008 to 68,000 in late 2009. These numbers do not include tens of thousands of European troops, untold numbers of “intelligence” personnel, mercenaries hired through the US state department and US defence department contractors almost equal in number to the US troops.

Obama’s 2009 “surge”, which more than doubled the US troop presence in Afghanistan preceded any public debate on an Afghanistan surge. The publicly debated surge, actually Obama’s second, was “debated” between the commander-in-chief and his supposed subordinates, and then executed in 2010. By the end of 2010, according to the US defence department (pdf), there were 96,900 US troops and 87,483 supporting contractors in Afghanistan. In rough terms, there are 200,000 Americans now in Afghanistan, against the will of the American people.

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