Michael Hastings writes: President Obama will arrive in Chicago this weekend to participate in a charade that has one not-so-hidden goal: Get the hell out of Afghanistan.
After Obama made what many around him now privately acknowledge was a mistake to escalate the conflict three years ago — essentially creating a new war of his own, tripling the size of U.S. forces after he caved under intense pressure from the Pentagon — the White House has been desperately searching for a way out. Ideally, one that couldn’t be spun as a full on retreat.
The administration didn’t find it at the last NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, two years ago. The U.S. still had to pretend they were in it for the next decade. There, NATO Secretary General Anders Foghs Rasmussen boldly committed the U.S. and Europe beyond 2014. “One thing must be very clear: NATO is in this for the long term,” he told reporters at the time.
Today, the calculus has changed completely, while the strategy’s failure is nearly impossible to deny. Bin Laden’s killing — which, for what it’s worth, had zero relationship to the counterinsurgency plan we adopted — gave Obama the political cover to pull it off. Finally, Obama could overrule his generals (which he did a month after the Osama raid) whose plan called for 130,000 troops to stay for years more to come.
“People are ready to see the war be wound down,” says Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network. “They don’t really understand. It’s been ten years, Bin Laden is gone, what exactly are we there for again?”
By rarely speaking about the war publicly — Obama has given only four major addresses on Afghanistan, or, about one speech for every 484 soldiers killed — the president allowed the horrible news to fill the void. The public was treated to one fiasco, embarrassment, or atrocity after the other, culminating with a crescendo of upsetting events this year that seemed to solidify public opinion against the fight. (The Koran burning, urinating on the Taliban, the massacre of 17 civilians, posing with dead body photos…)
With almost 70 percent of the public now against it, the war became politically safe enough to quit. “Since [the majority of] Americans neither care nor understand what the hell we’ve done there or in Iraq, he can do as he likes,” says Colonel Douglas MacGregror, a retired officer and influential military analyst. “We are at the beginning of turning inward for ten years.” [Continue reading…]
Obama’s biggest mistake in the world