News / Asia

    Debate Continues Over Proper Conditions for US Drawdown in Afghanistan

    Gary Thomas

    President Obama is expected to announce Wednesday the scaling back of U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. The announcement will herald the start to a gradual thinning out of some of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The start of the drawdown signals the beginning of a shift of security burdens to Afghan forces and moves toward a political settlement with at least some insurgent factions.

    Although exact troop withdrawal numbers are not yet available, the president has previously said the drawdown will be “significant.”

    Whatever that number is, U.S. officials, up to and including the president, have always said the pace and scale of any troop drawdown will be “conditions-based” - according to how active and strong the insurgents are, and how prepared the Afghan government is to resist them on its own.  But views of the conditions are highly varied.

    In a newspaper interview two weeks ago, General David Petraeus, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and soon to become CIA director, described the gains as “fragile” and “reversible.”  Secretary Gates has cited “substantial progress” but also has warned the gains could be lost by what he calls a “rush to the exits.”  He has called for a very modest pullout of support troops, not combat forces.

    Former diplomat Matthew Hoh, who served in Afghanistan but resigned over his opposition to the war, contends that conditions in Afghanistan are getting not better, but worse. "We accelerated the war. We’ve basically tripled the amount of troops, tripled the amount of money we’re spending there, we’ve supported two fraudulent or stolen elections, and the insurgency has blossomed in size and it’s spread throughout the country.  Where before, a couple of years ago, you could say it was confined roughly to the south and east, now that’s not the case.  So we’ve gone from being waste-deep to being chest-deep in quicksand," he said.

    Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says President Obama should take the opportunity in the withdrawal announcement to clearly state U.S. objectives in Afghanistan.  He says the original simple goals of defeating al-Qaida and keeping the Taliban from power have shifted over 10 years. "But then some of the more ambitious objectives, in terms of the state-building agenda and more development of Afghanistan came along.  And I think that that was a nice thing to try to do, but it was never quite clear, that was never stated as the end objective.  And so now I think that there’s this urgent need to re-clarify what we’re in Afghanistan for, and then commit resources to promote that objective," he said.

    Key to the U.S. plan is to build up Afghan army and police forces so they can take over security duties.  

    Former Afghan ambassador to the United States Said Jawad says the army is getting much better at its job, but the state of the police is still worrisome. "So actually there are pockets of excellence, their accomplishments are significant, especially with the army.  The police will have a long way to go to be where they want to be, both in the term of the number but also more importantly in the term of becoming a professional police force," he said.

    Watch more of Gary Thomas' interview with Said Jawad


    Part of the problem not just with the police but with the government, says Jawad, is the nagging issue of corruption.  He says the government of President Hamid Karzai simply does not see it as the same priority as does the U.S. and its NATO allies.

    The view is also starting to take hold that a political solution will be needed to end that conflict, and some very preliminary talks have already begun.  Jawad says a power-sharing deal is inevitable, but that the Taliban have no inclination to enter into a deal yet.

    "Taliban are fighting for political power. That’s obvious.  So any kind of deal will involve bringing them into sharing a certain degree of political power with them. The way the war is going on, although the Taliban are more and more under pressure, especially in the south, but they have more freedom of movement in other parts of the country. They’re not perceived to be losing the war completely.  And if they are not losing, they’re not really compelled to talk because the definition of victory for the Taliban is very different than the definition of victory for the United States or the Afghan people," he said.

    Andrew Wilder says that for any peace to take hold, a deal needs to include not just the government and Taliban, but also must have the support of the international community. "For that to be durable that also has to be an inclusive process. That can’t just be an agreement between the Taliban and Karzai government, sort of backed maybe by Pakistan and the U.S.  It has to look at the interests of other Afghan factions.  But in then trying to decide about troop numbers I think it’s important to then relate that to this objective of stability and maybe an inclusive peace process that the military is then there to support and promote," he said.

    Secretary Gates said Sunday that whatever the president’s decision, he expects that a “significant number” of troops will remain in Afghanistan.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora