May 27, 2014

Barno: President's Announcement is mixed news at best

By David W. Barno and USA (Ret.)

The President’s announcement of a residual force in Afghanistan of 9, 800 U.S. troops after the end of this year is mixed news at best.  While the number is just adequate to stave off the worst of military disasters, the associated timeline may create a disaster all its own: the year’s end 9,800 troops would be halved in 2015, and drawn sharply down to perhaps a token few hundred by the end of 2016 – a security assistance presence similar to our tiny, U.S. embassy-based military effort in Iraq today.

Much like the President Obama’s “Afghan surge” announcement in December 2009, this latest decision on Afghanistan tries to have it both ways: it provides roughly the number of troops requested by the military up front, but at the same time announces a steep and rapid drawdown plan to pull virtually all of those troops out over the next two years.  While the number for next year seems about right, the publicly announced speedy departure plan for those troops will now unquestionably sow doubt among American friends and Afghan supporters.  At the same time, this withdrawal timeline will tacitly encourage resilient Taliban and al Qaeda factions that are seeking a long-term victory. 

But here at home, the biggest and – for the President – the most important takeaway from today’s Rose Garden announcement will be the certainty that by the end of 2016, America’s longest war will truly be over.  After 13 years and thousands of U.S. casualties, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and wholly inconclusive results, today’s speech marks the end.  Few Americans will mourn this war’s passing.

And that handful of U.S. troops at our embassy in Kabul 30 months from now may only be enough to watch the meltdown of Afghan security forces – and perhaps their government – as international funding inevitably dries up when the last significant numbers of western troops fully withdraw.  This sad epitaph on a long and bloody war now looks increasingly likely.

  • Reports
    • November 11, 2019
    State Veteran Benefit Finder

    In the post-9/11 era, a “sea of goodwill” made up of organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors has formed to support veterans, servicemembers, their families...

    By Carole House, Emma Moore, Brent Peabody & Kayla M. Williams

  • Reports
    • November 11, 2019
    From Sea to Shining Sea

    In a new online tool, Carole House, Emma Moore, Brent Peabody, and Kayla Williams catalogue benefits for the veteran community offered by each state so that stakeholders can e...

    By Carole House, Emma Moore, Brent Peabody & Kayla M. Williams

  • Video
    • November 6, 2019
    Kayla Williams Discusses Veterans Issues on Washington Post Live

    On Wednesday, November 6, Kayla M. Williams joined Elliot Ackerman and Washington Post reporter Alex Horton on Washington Post Live for a conversation about issues facing Amer...

    By Kayla M. Williams

  • Commentary
    • The Hill
    • October 28, 2019
    End harassment at VA hospitals

    When I ran the VA’s Center for Women Veterans, one of my highest priorities was changing the culture throughout the organization to be more welcoming of women veterans, who ma...

    By Kayla M. Williams

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia