News / Asia

    US Defense Officials Warn Against Rapid Afghanistan Withdrawal

    US forces are scheduled to begin a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July
    US forces are scheduled to begin a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July
    Al Pessin

    Top U.S. defense officials are putting together a plan to begin reducing the American military presence in Afghanistan, starting in July.  The killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has led some members of Congress to call for a faster withdrawal than the military had expected.  Senior officers are becoming more confident in their comments on the status of the war, but they say a withdrawal that is too fast will risk the gains made during the past year.

    Pentagon officials still use the phrase “fragile and reversible” to describe progress in Afghanistan. They are proud of security gains in former Taliban strongholds, but they say they will not begin to know how stable those gains are until after this year’s summer fighting season, which is just beginning.  

    Already, the Taliban has launched two large-scale attacks.

    But in this war, civilian factors are as important as military ones in determining whether the hard-won progress will stick. U.S. Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills recently returned from a year of commanding coalition troops in and around Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, which has been a Taliban stronghold for years. “I am confident it is going to stick because of the investment the local Afghan people are making, sending their children to school despite threats.  That is a real investment in that system to spite the fact the insurgent might not want you to participate," he said.

    At a gathering at Washington’s Atlantic Council, Mills spoke of security gains and improvements in the Afghan Army and police forces.  But he spent a lot of time talking about the popularity of programs aimed at providing health care, creating jobs and opening schools.

    “When people ask me, ‘Are things reversible over there, are things going to slide back?’ my answer is one of the metrics you want to look at is that education piece, because the insurgent has told the parents, ‘Send your kids to school, we will kill you.  If your kids go to school, we will kill them.’  And yet the parents invest their children in that future and send those children to school," he said.

    General Mills acknowledges many problems remain in Afghanistan, including corruption that he believes contributed to a huge prison break last month in Kandahar.  But he says overall, he left Afghanistan feeling pretty good about the progress there, and scheduled nearly a dozen public appearances to talk about it.  

    At the Center for Strategic and International Studies, senior analyst Anthony Cordesman, a critic of Afghanistan strategy for many years, agrees there has been what he calls “very real progress” this year.  But in a VOA interview he focused on one of many problems that remain. “While we are building something up that can be highly effective in dealing with the military side, and may help with the police, the other side of this is still missing.  We do not have governance in place, in the form of Afghan local and district government, at anything like the level required," he said.

    But Cordesman says the U.S. strategy has made an important shift in recent years, moving away from trying to impose American-style democracy and capitalism, and toward more modest and more achievable goals. “You look at the detailed plan and what does it talk about?  Providing enough governance, enough security, so the Afghan people can function by their standards, on their terms, getting rid of the Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist groups as a threat that the Afghans can not deal with or which will threaten the outside world, and giving Afghanistan the opportunity to develop on its own terms.  That, we may be able to get to," he said.

    The U.S. and NATO goal is to get to that point by 2014, when Afghan forces are scheduled to take full security responsibility for their country.  Cordesman says the goal can only be accomplished by tailoring military, police and civilian institutions to conform to Afghan culture.  
    General Mills says that is what the U.S. military is trying to do. “We have approached this a bit differently than we have some other conflicts in that we have carefully brought in the local elders, brought in the local leadership, to tell us what is it they want, what do the Afghan people want.  Then we have built those institutions, as opposed to imposing what maybe the United States or the coalition might think is important on them," he said.

    Many experts and generals say that the surge of U.S. and allied troops last year finally put the capability in place to make potentially lasting progress.  

    But with that surge came President Barack Obama’s promise to begin reducing the U.S. troop level in Afghanistan by this July, a process officials have always said would be gradual and based on the security situation in various parts of the country.  They say events during the rest of this year will begin to show whether the security and civilian improvements brought by the troop surge are solid, and whether the withdrawal can move more quickly than planned.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora