Afghan President Wants U.S. Troops To Leave Early

As both nations still digest the consequences of Sunday’s events, the President of Afghanistan wants the U.S. to accelerate its withdrawal from the county, just as polls are starting to show that Americans feel exactly the same way:

Afghan president Hamid Karzai told U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that he wants an accelerated scale-back of American troops from the country.

Karzai wants Afghan troops to be in control of security in his country by the end of 2013 – a year ahead of schedule, according to the Associated Press.

Karzai issued a statement announcing the demand shortly after a meeting where he discussed the matter with Panetta.

Afghan security forces have the ability to keep the security in rural areas and in villages on their own,” Karzai said.

Karzai’s demand comes amid fury in his country over the killing of 16 civilians, allegedly by a U.S. soldier. The soldier who U.S. officials say has admitted involvement in the incident has now been flown to Kuwait, further angering Afghans who have demanded that he be tried in their country.

Karzai reportedly cited this incident as a reason to speed up the transfer of power between the two militaries.

Karzai’s comments come at the same time that Gallup releases a new poll showing that a growing number of Americans support an accelerated withdrawal timetable:

PRINCETON, NJ — Fifty percent of Americans say the United States should speed up withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, while 24% prefer sticking to the current timetable to leave by the end of 2014, and 21% say the U.S. should stay as long as it takes to accomplish its goals. Democrats and independents are most likely to favor a faster withdrawal than planned. Republicans are about equally divided between favoring a faster withdrawal and keeping troops in Afghanistan until the U.S. accomplishes its goals.

The results are based on a March 13 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted a few days after a U.S. serviceman went on a shooting rampage, killing 16 Afghan civilians. This was the latest in a series of reports of troubling behavior by U.S. service members in Afghanistan, including reports of some soldiers burning Qurans and others urinating on the corpses of Taliban soldiers.

More than one in three Americans say their opinions on how long U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan have changed because of events there in recent weeks, while 60% say their views have not changed. The vast majority of those whose opinions have changed — equal to 27% of Americans in total — say they now think the U.S. should withdraw sooner than they previously thought.

One problem with accelerating the timetable, though, is the simple logistics of withdrawal. We’ve been in Afghanistan ten years and, in addition to troops, there’s a lot of equipment to get out as well. Right now, the land routes through Pakistan that we’ve been relying on remain cut off, as they have been for a number of months ever since the Pakistanis shut them down in protest over drone strikes. Unless they’re reopened, it strikes me that withdrawing is going to be long, hard, an expensive. We may not be able to accelerate it without putting troops in danger, which would be foolish. On the other hand, perhaps withdrawing to bases at this point isn’t such a bad idea.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Asia, Military Affairs, National Security, World Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Deal!

  2. Hey Norm says:


  3. Graham says:

    Accomplish? Goals? WTF are these people expecting out of this at this point? Osama is dead. Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for Al Qaeda. AQ as it was in 2000 no longer even exists. What else is there to do there?

  4. Rob in CT says:

    Excellent! Deal. Bye!

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t think it’s too outrageous to ask what U. S. objectives are currently being served by our occupation of Afghanistan, whether those continue to be worthwhile objectives, and, if so, how those objectives would best be served? I really don’t think that Karzai’s preferences enter much into those considerations.

    As a slight digression I wonder by how long U. S. financial support for the Afghan government will survive withdrawing U. S. troops from Afghanistan?

  6. Chris Berez says:

    Sounds good to me! Let’s get the hell out!

    Right now, the land routes through Pakistan that we’ve been relying on remain cut off, as they have been for a number of months ever since the Pakistanis shut them down in protest over drone strikes.

    This is just a shot in the dark, I have no idea how realistic this is. But we all know that Pakistan wants us out of Afghanistan as much as the Afghans themselves. That makes me wonder if Pakistan would be open to negotiating reopening those routs, knowing that the express purpose for doing so would accomplish one of the goals they want most. They could always close the routs again after the U.S. completes our exit and then we can both go back to hating each other.

  7. @Dave Schuler:

    Overt imperialism generates blowback.

    Some, not you, nonetheless toggle between hearts and minds, and doing whatever the hell we want.

    At some point occupation become a net negative. For “I and A” that was sometime back, definitely post-OBL.

  8. Dazedandconfused says:

    @john personna:

    “Overt imperialism” is definitely not what we were engaged in, but that is rendered moot by the Afghans perception of it being that now, is they way I would frame that.

    The events of the last few weeks have closed the door to what we were trying to accomplish in these last two years. The Taliban no longer feels there is a reason they must talk with us. We must leave. Of Mice and Men…Lenny done choked a bitch.

  9. @Dazedandconfused:

    I was on my phone, and could not quote the bit I was picking up on:

    I really don’t think that Karzai’s preferences enter much into those considerations.

    I would say that when the president of your “host” country does not enter … it might be overt imperialism at that point.

    And it’s important to remember that this has been a sub-theme. Many people discounted the opinions of Iraqi leaders, and even parliaments, as not terribly important.

  10. Dazedandconfused says:

    Empire is the wrong term. We harbored no imperial ambitions in Afghanistan. The evidence is our encouraging the Chinese to do as much of the “building” in the clear, hold and build concept as possible. Same was true in Iraq. We take great pride in saying we stole nary a drop of oil from the place.

    What we were attempting to do is something different.

  11. Carson says:

    Get the troops out and then: “Release the Kraken”

  12. @Dazedandconfused:

    So it’s just a proxy empire?

    Don’t get hung up on 2012 not being exactly like 4000 bc.

  13. (Though of course the heavy use of “contractors” is an ancient tradition, perhaps going all the way back.)

  14. mike says:

    So the head of one democratic country is telling the leader of another to do or not do certain things in his country – seems like, if we believe in the rule of law, we must abide. Good Luck Karzai.

  15. Dazedandconfused says:

    @john personna:

    4000bc? The european empires of the 18th and 19th century’s.

    Those were empires. The idea being to make a profit. BTW, China is hardly our proxy.

  16. @Dazedandconfused:

    You saw that gasoline prices figure in the Presidential election?

    If that is part of the calculation, then anyone doing production for the global market is part of the solution.

  17. Dazedandconfused says:

    John, I can’t make out your point in regards to a relation between gas prices and Afghanistan. Could you elaborate on that a bit?

  18. Brittany says:

    Bring me my husband home!!!

  19. @Dazedandconfused:

    I was thinking of the Chinese in Iraq, it is true. And yes, I see it all bound. It is all GWB’s expansion of the Carter Doctrine.

  20. FWIW, I don’t consider this a terribly important sub-discussion of Afghan conditions. It will be what it will be.

    But we are unwinding from a force expansion into the area which both had roots in American need for oil, and blow-back from past adventures, some of which were also centered in oil.

    The whole Al-Qaeda cycle related to oil, and blow-back.

  21. Kolohe says:

    “:as they have been for a number of months ever since the Pakistanis shut them down in protest over drone strikes.”

    I believe they shut them down when some of our (manned) aerial gunships took out about 2 dozen of their soldiers just across their side of the border, not because of drone strikes.

  22. David B. says:

    I have created a petition to the White House to speed up the timetable for the withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan at:

    If you go there, you can create an account and sign the petition. It is free.