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Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001-2013
February 1, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

More than ten years after it began, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced a "mid-2013" end to combat operations in the Afghan War, the longest in US history.

The announcement follows Nicolas Sarkozy's surprising declaration last week of a 2013 French withdrawal.

It is unknown if the United States will continue its program of drone attacks in neighboring Pakistan.
posted by theodolite (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
And the Taliban have already announced they intend to take it back.

*sad horn*
posted by stinkycheese at 2:14 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:17 PM on February 1, 2012


Iran, here we come!
posted by Huck500 at 2:21 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
posted by Fizz at 2:26 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


the longest in US history.

I'd somehow missed that this was the case. Jesus.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eventually, all wars have to end. The Afghan government has had ample opportunity to deal with its internal corruption and to field a military and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban. If it can't accomplish that task after more than 10 years, it's doubtful that it ever will, and the United States can't foot the bill endlessly. At some point, Afghans have to take responsibilty for their own future.

America's interest in Afghanistan is in ensuring that it does not become a safe haven or state sponsor for terrorism. In 2001, that required an invasion. Now, with the use of drones, terrorism can be effectively suppressed without needing thousands of boots on the ground. Of course drone strikes will continue, as they should. They let the United States keep its citizens safe without requiring it to undertake land wars in Asia - wars which kill a lot more civilians than the drones ever will, because soldiers on the ground don't have 15,000 feet between them and the enemy. The alternatives - either letting al Qaeda plan freely or invading its bases - would give us either another 9/11 or an invasion of Pakistan.

So, score another one for Obama. Winding up two ground wars, fighting a more targeted, more intelligent war on al Qaeda and its affiliates. Good for him.

Now, if he would only provide every Afghan woman with an AK-47 or a green card before the withdrawal, that would be most ideal.
posted by Dasein at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


And after U.S. mercenary group Blackwater/Academi has finished helping the CIA out in Afghanistan, they can go train the Canadian Forces.

That should work out just great.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2012


Graveyard of Empires, Graaaaaveyaaaaard of Empires, Graveyardofempires.... The one to one parity between reality and some kind of mashup between a bad airport thriller and a Hunter S Thompson ether dream on top of some bad crab Rangoon is starting to really harsh my mellow.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:37 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll be glad that (potentially) fewer people will be killed, and maybe fewer incited to hatred by an occupying army— but damn, I fear for the future of Afghanis, and Afghani women in particular. Maybe if we'd spent as much money and energy on improving the place, the future wouldn't seem so bleak.

Not that the US (and the rest) are that capable in that department, either; but while I understand the idea of trying to stop training camps made to manufacture terrorists who want to make stabby-stabby with us, this years-long quagmire really seems a terribly painful way to decrease an already statistically insignificant chance of someone being killed by a terrorist.

But wait! I think this has been hashed out previously!
posted by Red Loop at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2012


a terribly painful way to decrease an already statistically insignificant chance of someone being killed by a terrorist.

This wasn't to keep more people from being killed by terrorists, it was to keep Giuliani from having more dates to reference in stump speeches.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:49 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eventually, all wars have to end.

Amen. I am looking forward to the conclusion of "War on Drugs".
posted by vidur at 2:56 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course drone strikes will continue, as they should.

You're making baby Foreign Policy cry. It's sad to see the lesson of 9/11 is that the US shouldn't have let it's guard down instead of asking what it did to deserve it.
posted by furtive at 3:01 PM on February 1, 2012


Deserve's got nothing to do with it.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


From the "longest" link in the post:

*The dates used by the Associated Press for official U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War are August 1964 (the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) to January 1973 (the Paris Peace Accords), although U.S. military activities and intervention in Vietnam spanned from 1950 to 1975.

Afghanistan's characterization as the longest war of U.S. involvement is going to come with a big asterisk.
posted by Brak at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe if we'd spent as much money and energy on improving the place, the future wouldn't seem so bleak.

It's bleak because we already spent so much violating the Prime Directive.

posted by T.D. Strange at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now, if he would only provide every Afghan woman with an AK-47 or a green card before the withdrawal, that would be most ideal.

My feelings exactly. I was never the least bit concerned about Afghanistan as a "safe haven for terrorists" - I was concerned about it's back-asswards attitude towards women and their fucking barbarian treatment of animals. So, y'know, ideally I'd like to see all the dogs with AKs as well.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:08 PM on February 1, 2012


"Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

Sure, no one "deserves" to have a loan shark break their legs, but for some people that outcome is more estimable for others. The US being a target of Arab terrorist groups has a similar causative link in Palestine, Saudi Arabia and other locales; deserving or otherwise.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 3:09 PM on February 1, 2012


>Eventually, all wars have to end. The Afghan government has had ample opportunity to deal with its internal corruption and to field a military and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban. If it can't accomplish that task after more than 10 years, it's doubtful that it ever will, and the United States can't foot the bill endlessly. At some point, Afghans have to take responsibilty for their own future.

True, but I don't think afghans have been unwilling to grab the reins. NATO has been refusing to leave, however.

>America's interest in Afghanistan is in ensuring that it does not become a safe haven or state sponsor for terrorism. proxy for Iran

The Americans were happy to make it a staging ground for uncoventional/guerilla war against the soviet union. Over the short term, it may be strategically valuable if afghan camps trained resistance fighters in xinjiang or chechnya. At the very least, I would expect something like Jundallah

>In 2001, that required an invasion. Now, with the use of drones, terrorism can be effectively suppressed without needing thousands of boots on the ground. Of course drone strikes will continue, as they should. They let the United States keep its citizens safe without requiring it to undertake land wars in Asia - wars which kill a lot more civilians than the drones ever will, because soldiers on the ground don't have 15,000 feet between them and the enemy. The alternatives - either letting al Qaeda plan freely or invading its bases - would give us either another 9/11 or an invasion of Pakistan.

The people of afpak hate the drone strikes, I don't think that a stable government in either country can allow them to continue. If continued bombings lead to a fall of the Pakistani government, and then their nuclear weapons are acquired by Muslim fundamentalists, the consequences would be dire. From that scenario, it's easy to see how port and border security might be a better investment than drone strikes.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 3:20 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


LONDON – A highly classified U.S. report sent to NATO's top brass says that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are ready to take control from President Hamid Karzai, The (London) Times reported.

The State of the Taliban report, compiled by American forces operating out of Afghanistan's Bagram air base, reveals that the 10-year Western-led intervention in the country will not stop the Taliban from returning to power.<>
"Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact," the report says. "Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban."
The report, sent to NATO leaders last month, is based on information gained from more than 20,000 interrogations of several thousand Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees at the Bagram base.
The report also details the strong links between the Taliban and Pakistan -- especially its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, The Times reported.
"The Government of Pakistan remains intimately involved with the Taliban," the report says.
"ISI is thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel. Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the Government of Pakistan.

"ISI officers tout the need for continued jihad [holy war] and expulsion of foreign invaders from Afghanistan."

The report adds, however, that the information gained from Taliban prisoners provided little evidence that Pakistan is directly funding or providing weapons to the Taliban.


foxnews.com Jan. 31, 2012
posted by Postroad at 3:30 PM on February 1, 2012


In 2001, that required an invasion. Now, with the use of drones, terrorism can be effectively suppressed without needing thousands of boots on the ground. Of course drone strikes will continue, as they should.

I'm not sure I've ever seen so much outright evil in so few sentences.
posted by Malor at 3:52 PM on February 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


I really don't care about the plight of those people; we should just Jane Goodall it from a safe distance and start investing in American citizens and American infrastructure. Just Carpet bomb them again if it even looks like they might start some shit. Let's get out of being missionaries for capitalistic democracy and let backward people run themselves into the ground.
posted by Renoroc at 3:54 PM on February 1, 2012


“The funding is going to largely determine the kind of force we can sustain in the future,” Mr. Panetta said.

Oh yes. The $ drives everything we do. With the reduction in money, force and capability reduction will follow.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:58 PM on February 1, 2012


It's sad to see the lesson of 9/11 is that the US shouldn't have let it's guard down instead of asking what it did to deserve it.

I get what you are saying, but perhaps you mean 'provoke'?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:05 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


let backward people run themselves into the ground.


But I live in America! I can't let that happen here!
posted by fuq at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings on this. I'm anti-war for the most part but Afghanistan was legitimately a defensive response to an attack so I feel it is justified that we stay until the job is done.

I don't think the job will be done by 2013 but...I don't think it could be done by 2023 either. A common criticism of Obama from the right on foreign policy is that he doesn't listen to the generals on the ground, I'm pretty sure that is hogwash. He listened to what they said and made this decision with all points of view in mind, I think it is probably the right one and (lol) if Romney or Newt was to win I think they would be grateful they didn't have to make the call and can instead just say they are following the plan that was in place.

Another common attack from the right is that he leads from behind, so the French thing is gonna come up in the election, but who cares?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Hard Way Out of Afghanistan
posted by homunculus at 4:40 PM on February 1, 2012


It's sad to see the lesson of 9/11 is that the US shouldn't have let it's guard down instead of asking what it did to deserve it.

The 9/11 attacks didn't happen to "America". It happened to the people affected by it. If you want to use deserve in this way, then there's really no logical way to condemn US actions, since foreign policy decisions made at the government level apparently translate into guilt on the individual level.
posted by spaltavian at 4:49 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everything that I have heard, and will hear about Afghanistan from anyone at all (except for Afghan natives) will be 100% BS.
posted by telstar at 4:56 PM on February 1, 2012


WE WON! YAY! WOO! ...woo.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:57 PM on February 1, 2012


Basically, the terrain of Afganistan is too difficult. Much too difficult. And it can't be conquered by technology.

At the start of the war, a lot of people thought the Taliban had run away (cowards, etc.). But they just ran to where the US/NATO couldn't get them and started to work their way back. They took the long view.
posted by carter at 5:15 PM on February 1, 2012


They let the United States keep its citizens safe without requiring it to undertake land wars in Asia

look, i'm probably not the one who should be telling you this, but i've got some bad news for you: "the citizens" of the United States aren't safe, weren't safe, and won't ever be safe. bad things happen to good people, every day.
posted by facetious at 5:17 PM on February 1, 2012


Afghanistan as it is today was created by the USA, which started funding Islamist groups after the pro-USSR communist revolution in 1978. These groups, which we call the Mujahidin, weren't pro-USA: they rebelled because the communist government was secular, anti-tribal, and pro land-reform. When the communist government fell the Mujahidin were precisely as chaotic and evil as you would expect. After four years of civil war one faction rose to power, led by mullah Mohammed Omar. He was lawful evil, and his faction were the Taliban. Mohammed Omar is the one who welcomed al-Qaeda into Afghanistan and the US government would love to have his head on a platter, if only they had a drone equipped with platter technology.

I can't say that the USA is wrong to leave Afghanistan; there's not much they could do to make it better. But I think we should recognise that without US interference Afghanistan would probably be your common-or-garden ex-Soviet dung pile rather than the the suppurating sore and heart of darkness that it is.

Oh yes, and the USA would be better off too - because it's very likely that without the Taliban there would have been no al-Qaeda army in Afghanistan, Osama would not have risen to eminence, and there would have been no al-Qaeda attack on the USA on September 11th 2001.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:20 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]



I'm not sure I've ever seen so much outright evil in so few sentences.

Because diplomacy is always the answer. There is never a need for preemptive physical aggression against known enemies of the United States. Because sometimes mistakes happen, we should always wait until we have unequivocal proof before attacking any foreign individual. We won't have to wait long for that though, because soon foreign intelligence will be infallible and, concurrently, our enemies will no longer hole up in schools and hospitals because they will realize the endangering of innocents is immoral.

You know, evil exists on foreign soil too. Deal. Let's disagree on how to address it, and maybe, optimistically, the most effective, pragmatic solution will prevail.
posted by gagglezoomer at 5:52 PM on February 1, 2012


[Any more "go fuck yourself" talk and I'm turning this thread around. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:59 PM on February 1, 2012


Eventually, all wars have to end.

See, you almost got me. For a moment I imagined that these drones were a happy accident that would soon lead to better foreign policy, but then I thought about Iran. And when I re-read that first line, I remembered that not all wars have to start.

The best way to get out of a war is to not get into one, unless you absolutely have to. Afghanistan didn't have an air force, a navy, or any vehicle with enough range to get to our side of the Atlantic. That's why the people who happened to use Afghanistan (as well as North Africa and Yemen and Saudi Arabia) as a base hijacked airplanes: they couldn't even afford the equipment, though four fifths of them were middle class men from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

No matter how good our foreign policy is, terrorist attacks will happen; that's true. What's also true is that we need to accept that as part of the price of freedom, because unfortunately, it's the cheapest one. Instead of accepting the murder of 3,000 of our citizens as the cost, plus the thought that the murderers may not see justice, we instead asked our fellow citizens for 6,000 more lives, tens of thousands of their limbs, and hundreds of thousands of their minds. We asked one million men and women not only to put their own lives at risk, but to put themselves through the trauma of armed combat. And then on top of that, we asked for trillions of dollars to pay for it, in addition to the lost financial opportunities for future investment to replace the billions of dollars of damage to our economy after 9/11.

The lines are direct. Every year we accept far more deaths as the price for the convenience of personal transportation. We see hundreds of thousands die young from heart disease, lung failure, and we still have accepted that as a price for our right to make bad choices. We accept the possibility of gun violence for the right to own guns. We accept the possibility of being ripped off for the right to make our own financial decisions. We constantly and consistently have accepted the unfortunate fact that every freedom incurs a price, which is always painful, but in the end, unavoidable. And America, for all her faults, has mostly let us do whatever we want, as soon as our citizens were able to ask for it.

Now we need to learn to accept the possibility of terrorism for the right to be free of wiretapping, free of government agents putting their hands on us, free of secret prisons, free of militarized police forces, free of draconian law, and free of the much larger costs of needless, senseless, endless war.

Now is the time to try and convince every citizen, regardless of their political background, that remaining free involves once again accepting the price. And once we have convinced our citizens, we should ask that our government return to this ideal, and at long last, extend it to our foreign policy.
posted by deanklear at 6:15 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is a campaign promise. It is being set up for the President to use in the coming campaign.
It is not a serious goal - it is manufactured talking point.
posted by Flood at 7:01 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now the US citizens can proudly point to all the good they've done in Afghanistan while congratulating themselves on what a fine use of funds it was, indeed.

I didn't think it could get any more shameful that it already was, and then we funded the drones.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2012


Afghanistan's characterization as the longest war of U.S. involvement is going to come with a big asterisk.

Well, let's wait until all "U.S. military activities" in Afghanistan have ended, because you can be sure it won't be in 2013.
posted by lullaby at 8:01 PM on February 1, 2012


Afghanistan's characterization as the longest war of U.S. involvement is going to come with a big asterisk.

Probably so, as in the Afghan War didn't actually end in 2014.

I really don't care about the plight of those people; we should just Jane Goodall it from a safe distance and start investing in American citizens and American infrastructure. Just Carpet bomb them again if it even looks like they might start some shit. Let's get out of being missionaries for capitalistic democracy and let backward people run themselves into the ground.

That's fine, but perhaps we should save the wanton violence and death raining from above for people who actually start shit, as opposed to those who might. Think, McFly, think.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:44 AM on February 2, 2012


^2013, rather.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:45 AM on February 2, 2012


So with Iraq and Afghanistan both winding down ("major operations" anyway) now can we have healthcare and a substantial increase (like 2-3x) increase in teacher salaries and numbers?
posted by DU at 5:19 AM on February 2, 2012


This outcome has been inevitable since W decided to invade Iraq instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:39 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No more war? How will I live as an American? But there is always Iran-a much bigger target! That one is bound to take at least 20 years. And I noticed the US media the other day was softening us up with their propaganda (Iran plans attacks against USA). Oh Goody! Iran better hope that Obama doesn't slip in the polls behind Romney this summer.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:48 AM on February 2, 2012


I think Obama really likes drones. A lot. Why have troops on the ground and all that messiness when you can bomb people from undetectable planes?
posted by mrhappy at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2012


And the Taliban have already announced they intend to take it back.

They've controlled the majority of the country throughout the war, so "take it back" isn't entirely accurate. The only people who thought they ever left were the U.S. military commanders, because it was in their interest to believe it (assuming they even did).
posted by coolguymichael at 10:18 AM on February 2, 2012


Unit leader among Marines who urinated on corpses
posted by homunculus at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2012


Anatol Lieven has a long article in the current New York Review of Books discussing the importance of a settlement with the Taliban. Afghanistan: The Best Way to Peace.

In Lieven's judgment, the Taliban is not strong enough to take cities by siege:
The record between 1989 and 1992 brings out the fact that it is highly unlikely that the Taliban will be able to storm Afghan cities after the US withdrawal. The respective logics, on the one hand, of guerrilla warfare, as successfully practiced by the Mujahideen and Taliban, and, on the other hand, of siege warfare are diametrically opposed. The first requires hit-and-run attacks followed by the rapid dispersal of forces. The second requires the concentration of enemy forces for a prolonged period—at which point they can be successfully blasted by the superior firepower of the other side.

This is what happened to the Mujahideen when, with Pakistani encouragement, they tried to capture the city of Jalalabad in March 1989. I witnessed that battle as a journalist for the London Times. The contrast between that terrifying battle and previous experiences with the Mujahideen, when I had felt in no serious danger except from mines, has remained with me ever since.
It's more likely that the weak Afghan state will collapse, and that civil war will ensue.
In these circumstances, it is highly probable that government-equipped military forces of one group or another will sooner or later stage a takeover of much of the country. The willingness of the US Congress and public to go on subsidizing Afghanistan would then be gravely undermined. If the coup were seen to be led by Tajik officers, there would be a counter-coup by Pashtun officers, and so on. If the Pashtun parts of the army lost in Kabul, many would defect to the Taliban—replicating in many ways the pattern of the civil wars that followed the Najibullah regime’s fall in 1992.

The Afghan civil war would then intensify drastically and continue indefinitely. The Taliban could not capture even Kabul, let alone the non-Pashtun areas to the west and north, in the face of the opposition from Tajiks and other ethnic groups backed by the US, India, and Russia; but the dividing lines between the different territories would be drawn in battle, and amid horrendous bloodshed.
Moreover, tension between the US and Pakistan has reached dangerous levels:
... it is no exaggeration to say that the tension between the Pakistani military and the United States now poses a threat to US security that dwarfs either the Taliban or the battered remnants of the old al-Qaeda. As I have found from speaking with Pakistani soldiers, and from visiting military families in the chief areas of recruitment in northern Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the fury of the junior ranks against the US is reaching a dangerous pitch. These soldiers share both the sympathy for the Afghan Taliban of the population at large and that population’s deep distrust of US intentions. They are increasingly angry with their own commanders, whom they view as cowardly and corrupt; and they are profoundly humiliated when they return to their towns and villages and are asked by neighbors—and even their own women—why as slaves of the US they are killing fellow Muslims.

... if the army breaks apart, not only will immense munitions and expertise flow to terrorists, but the Pakistani state will collapse. This would be a historic triumph for al-Qaeda and its allies—and like the invasion of Iraq, one made possible for them by the United States.

To my astonishment, I find that some US officials are now arguing that a principal reason why the US must retain bases in Afghanistan—even at the price of making a settlement with the Taliban impossible—is in order to continue striking at al-Qaeda and other extremist targets in Pakistan’s border areas. More than ten years after September 11, it is simply appalling that supposedly well-informed people are still treating the terrorist threat in such a crude and mechanistic fashion. Have they not realized that the membership of al-Qaeda and its allies is not fixed, but depends on al-Qaeda’s ability to recruit among Muslims infuriated by US actions? Or that a terrorist attack on the US is as likely—more likely—to be planned in Karachi, Lahore, the English town of Bradford, or New York as in Pakistan’s frontier areas? An essential US motive for a peace settlement in Afghanistan, one allowing complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, is precisely that it would allow America to pull back from the existing confrontation with Pakistan—not continue it into the indefinite future, with all the gains that this would create for resentment by extremists.
posted by russilwvong at 4:06 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


White House scrambles to ease fallout from Panetta's Afghanistan comments
posted by homunculus at 11:20 AM on February 3, 2012


A Wired 3-Part Series: Dark Heart, Winter War

U.S.-Backed Militia Fortifies Afghanistan’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Rogue Cop Threatens Shaky U.S.-Afghan Alliance

Afghan Villagers Told: Volunteer … Or Else
posted by homunculus at 11:28 AM on February 3, 2012


It is a campaign promise. It is being set up for the President to use in the coming campaign.
It is not a serious goal - it is manufactured talking point.


If so, I'm not sure who that talking point is designed to appeal to. The Jaded Liberal, who'll say exactly what you did? The Rabid Right, who'll just call Obama a "pussy, weakling, Commie" who they can now blame any set-backs in the region on? No, I don't think so. If Obama isn't playing 13-dimensional chess, he's not playing 13-dimensional chess.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2012


Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals

Top official: drone critics are Al Qaeda enablers
posted by homunculus at 9:08 AM on February 6, 2012


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