Obama Lowering Afghanistan Ambitions?

Obama Bows Head at Medal of Honor CeremonyObama administration officials are now admitting what has been apparent for weeks: that they are giving serious consideration to radically downsizing the Afghanistan mission.  Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller break the story in this morning’s NYT, noting that a combination of factors have President Obama strongly reconsidering the Biden Plan, which he rejected as recently as March, which calls for a narrow counter-terrorism strategy combined with accelerated handoff to Afghan security forces.

I assess this at some length in my New Atlanticist piece, “Obama Having Buyer’s Remorse in Afghanistan?

Given that I both anticipated this policy change and that it largely accords with my own instincts on the matter, I’m inclined to give Obama a great deal of slack here.

While I agree with CNAS scholar Andrew Exum that me must consider the costs of withdrawing from Afghanistan along with the advantages and that there are indeed American interests that merit risking American lives in that theater, I also agree with Dr. Henry Kissinger that we must consider our capacity and staying power as well as our desires when deciding what to do next.  Given that the American public will not put up with heavy casualties in Afghanistan for decades on end, especially given a corrupt host government and the lack of progress in building infrastructure or training Afghan security forces, it’s incumbent upon the president to steer the course of our policy accordingly.

Much more at the link.  I’ll also be discussing this tonight on OTB Radio with Dave Schuler and special guest Joshua Foust of Registan.net.

Photo: Getty Images.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    I’m inclined to give Obama a great deal of slack here

    Given the fact that he said he was going to ramp up our assault on these Afgan bastards and now he is going back on his word, I say to B. Hussein: “You Lie!”

    I think it is disgusting that this guy has forced himself on us and now on our nation’s schoolchildren.

  2. steve says:

    The recent election did not help anything. It clarified, again, what an inept and corrupt government Karzai runs. There are many things that make Afghanistan fundamentally more difficult to manage as a COIN operation. The lack of a competent government trumps all IMHO. Please ask Foust about pre-1979 Afghanistan. Wonder if his views are different than Christian’s?