16 coalition troops died in the last three days in Afghanistan. 2010 has been the deadliest for US and other coalition troops in Afghanistan. So far, 589 have died. Who’s to blame? Barack Obama of course.
In December 2009, Obama announced a surge of 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan, but added that they would start withdrawing in 18 months’ time – by the summer of 2011.
I had at that time blogged about Obama’s declaration, wondering who Obama was trying to please.
It was obvious that Obama would please the Taliban, who now have a clear date until which they have to keep fighting. As long as the people of Afghanistan know that the Taliban will outlive the US presence in Afghanistan, they are unlikely to support coalition initiatives to weaken the Taliban. Karzai will be tempted to talk to the ‘other side’ in the vain hope that the Taliban will spare him after the Americans leave, unlike what they did to Najibullah. And the Taliban will increase the tempo of their attacks, throw in everything they have, because they only need to keep it up for less than a year.
A couple of months ago, General Petraeus insisted that US troops would stay beyond the August 2011 deadline if so needed, that Obama’s deadline was only an “attempt to increase the urgency of the international effort in Afghanistan.”
Petraeus’s colleague Marine Corps Chief General James Conway went to the extent of saying that said the July 2011 deadline could backfire, and that he expected marines to remain in Afghanistan beyond next year.
To quote General James Conway "In some ways, we think right now it is probably giving our enemy sustenance," he said. "In fact we've intercepted communications that say, 'Hey, you know, we only need to hold out for so long.'
It is quite likely that Obama will now take up General Petraeus’s line and say that his deadline was only an attempt to speed up the peacemaking process, that troops would stay beyond the summer of 2011. However, to Afghan ears, it might sound like an admission of defeat.