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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Tracking the Issues: Struggling on the Afghanistan Exit Strategy

by Newsteam Staff
April 5, 2012

Burqa clad housewives of former Afghan insurgents walk past a U.S. soldier in Laghman province, Afghanistan March 25, 2012 (Erik De Castro/Courtesy Reuters). Burqa-clad housewives of former Afghan insurgents walk past a U.S. soldier in Laghman province, Afghanistan March 25, 2012 (Erik De Castro/Courtesy Reuters).

With U.S. voters continuing to sour on the conflict on Afghanistan, plans and policies ahead of the planned 2014 withdrawal are still very much in flux (Reuters). The U.S. and Karzai governments are reportedly nearing a deal on controversial night raids (NYT).

NATO denies plans are in the works to speed up withdrawal (AFP), saying the allies are sticking to the timeline agreed at the Lisbon summit in November 2010 and the year 2013 has come up in discussions only as part of the 2014 withdrawal planning.President Barack Obama is also sticking to his guns on a 2014 withdrawal, including incremental troop draw downs set for later this year.

In a New York Times opinion piece, the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum writes that the U.S. public still has yet to accept the idea that even after the 2014 withdrawal, there will still be U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a matter also absent from the campaign trail.

“[The] fighting will not end once troops leave, and the United States and others will continue to arm, train and equip Afghan forces in the same way elements of the Pakistani state continue to arm, train and equip some of Afghanistan’s insurgent groups,” he says, though the Obama administration has been reluctant to discuss the size and make up of such a force.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and Afghanistan.

Suggested Other Reading:

Six foreign policy experts discuss the 2014 withdrawal and what “winning” in Afghanistan means for the United States.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sens. John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham say President Obama should “resist the short-sighted calls for additional troop reductions” in AfghanistanThey write “that after all our nation has sacrificed in Afghanistan, we stand ready to do everything in our power to secure the same bipartisan support for this war in its twilight hours as when it began more than a decade ago.

The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy takes the opposite tack from McCain, Lieberman and Graham, arguing “staying the course” in Afghanistan is the wrong plan.

– Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor

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