Obama to Restore Afghanistan Status Quo Ante
By this time next year, Obama plans to bring the U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan down to about 32,000. For this, I’m sure many will credit him for winding down the war. Yet this is almost the exact number of troops that were there when Obama took power in January 2009. He then proceeded to triple the number, then bring it back down to about double the presence that characterized the end of the Bush years, and now we’re all waiting for him to restore the precise number that he inherited. This puts aside the possibility of U.S. troops staying there into the next decade.
What has been accomplished in the last four years? Plenty of bloodshed—a sharp rise in Afghan casualties and close to three times as many American troop deaths as Bush presided over in Afghanistan in more than seven years. Also, Afghanistan’s Bagram prison facility, even more lawless than Guantánamo, swelled from about 630 prisoners to about 3,000 on Obama’s watch. The president also managed to widen the drone war in neighboring Pakistan, killing thousands, including perhaps a couple hundred kids.
What was this all about? Oh yes, to stop al Qaeda in Afghanistan—even though the administration conceded in 2009 that there were only about a hundred such people that fit the description. And to promote democracy. And stamp out opium.
The original reason to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 also made little sense—the “terrorist training grounds” were used to train ground fighters who had nothing to do with 9/11, a plot planned in Europe and the United States involving no Afghan nationals. It was all about revenge then, and it’s all about imperial inertia now.