Backsliding in Afghanistan

An editorial in the New York Times says: No one has sounded more determined to extricate the United States from Afghanistan than President Obama. It is “time to turn the page,” he said in May when he announced plans to reduce American forces to 9,800 troops by the end of December, with a full withdrawal by the end of 2016. That goal appeared to be on track — until now. Mr. Obama’s recent turnabout and other developments seem to be sucking America back into the Afghan war, a huge mistake.

First, Mr. Obama authorized a more expansive mission for the American military in 2015 than originally planned. His order would put American troops right back into ground combat by allowing them to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militants. He had previously said that the residual force would be engaged only in counterterrorism operations aimed at remnants of Al Qaeda. The new order also permits American jets and drones to support Afghan military missions.

The decision by Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, to lift the ban on night raids imposed by his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, could also push American troops into direct fighting. The Afghan special operations forces, which are to resume night raids in 2015, could bring along American advisers, backed by American air support. While military officials say night raids are an effective tactic, enabling the Taliban to be seized in their homes, such intrusions are offensive to many Afghans and likely to provoke a new wave of anti-American sentiment. [Continue reading…]

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