Will soldiers come home in 2014?
Obama weighs the options as American forces inch closer to a permanent return from war-torn Middle East
According to President Obama’s annual State of the Union address, the war in Afghanistan could be leading to a complete troop withdrawal as we begin 2014. Should Afghan President Hamid Karzai refuse to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA), a complete troop withdrawal will take effect, reducing the country’s current number of U.S. troops from 37,500 to zero after 2014.
The BSA ensures that U.S. troops will not be subjected to local laws, while setting other considerations for continued U.S. presence as well. However, Karzai has not taken kindly to the agreement.
The proposal for 10,000 troops after 2014 came from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition commander in Afghanistan. With State Department officials and intelligence officers still in Afghanistan, troops are needed to ensure their safety.
If Karzai decides to consider the BSA null and void, I believe we will see an Afghanistan that will quickly tumble into a state of disrepair under the rule of the Taliban. Since the push to eliminate the Taliban during the summer of 2002, the evasive group has reorganized, recruiting young individuals.
Stephen Parke, associate dean of the Helms School of Government, said he believes that the Taliban is not yet finished with Afghanistan.
“I fear that if there is a complete troop withdrawal, that Afghanistan will look like Iraq,” Parke said. “The Taliban has made it clear that they seek an Islamic state subject to Sharia law.”
In discussing the troop proposal, Parke thought it was a sound suggestion, pointing out the politics involved.
“The Pentagon’s recommendation to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is reasonable,” Parke said. “The U.S. military is under civilian command and control and so ultimately, the Pentagon makes recommendations and the president, as commander in chief, and Congress, who control the purse strings, make decisions.”
President Obama spoke on the situation in his State of the Union Address Tuesday.
“More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan,” Obama said. “With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.”
I do not doubt that “America’s longest war will finally be over.” However, I do doubt that it will be a decisive victory. Seeing that the Taliban is gaining favor with Karzai along with his anti-U.S. rhetoric, the Islamic fundamentalist group might see their greatest dream come true.
The Taliban has also been gaining traction in Pakistan with the newly appointed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After eight months of attempted negotiations and suspended counter-terrorist operations, Taliban leaders have regained their strength and have taken several important areas throughout Pakistan.
Should Karzai decide to discount the BSA, our withdrawal from Afghanistan will have dire consequences on the struggling country that depends on us.
If we intend to keep the Taliban from gaining traction in Afghanistan like they are in Pakistan, we must ensure that the Afghan Security Forces are capable to take over operations when we leave. Bringing the troops home before the mission is complete would be a discredit to those who have given their lives upholding democracy in a country where terror threatens the lives of its own citizens every day.
Let us make sure we finish this war with a triumphant victory, knowing we have handed over this hurting country to a people ready for real change.