Panetta: We’re leaving Afghanistan
The United States and NATO will seek to end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year and shift to a role of providing support and training to Afghan security forces, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday.
U.S. military commanders had said in recent weeks they would begin a transition this year toward taking more of an advisory role as Afghanistan’s national army and police take greater responsibility for fighting the insurgency. But Panetta’s remarks were the first time the Obama administration has said it could foresee an end to regular U.S. and NATO combat operations by the second half of next year.
Let’s see what Romney says about this. He’s been for getting out of Afghanistan, as he was last June:
“It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s okay,” Romney said. “One lesson we‘ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”
More recently — in one of the Florida debates — he was kinda sorta in the Panetta ballpark:
“Our mission there is to be able to turn Afghanistan and its sovereignty over to a military of Afghan descent, Afghan people that can defend their sovereignty. That’s something we can accomplish in the next couple of years.”
It seems to me that Romney was giving a “we’re going to withdraw” response to a Republican audience while trying not to come off as defeatist. I may be wrong, but I’d bet that no matter who wins in November, we’re going to draw down our forces in Afghanistan, which of course is going to go to hell, because Afghan soldiers cannot and will not fight. A leaked classified US military report predicts that the Taliban will retake Afghanistan when NATO withdraws. A different classified report sheds light on why. Excerpt from the NYTimes account:
The 70-page coalition report, titled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” — which was originally distributed as an unclassified document and later changed to classified — goes far beyond anecdotes. It was conducted by a behavioral scientist who surveyed 613 Afghan soldiers and police officers, 215 American soldiers and 30 Afghan interpreters who worked for the Americans.
While the report focused on three areas of eastern Afghanistan, many of the Afghan soldiers interviewed had served elsewhere in Afghanistan and the author believed that they constituted a sample representative of the entire country.
“There are pervasive feelings of animosity and distrust A.N.S.F. personnel have towards U.S. forces,” the report said, using military’s abbreviation for Afghan security forces. The list of Afghan complaints against the Americans ran the gamut from the killing of civilians to urinating in public and cursing.
“U.S. soldiers don’t listen, they are too arrogant,” said one of the Afghan soldiers surveyed, according to the report. “They get upset due to their casualties, so they take it out on civilians during their searches,” said another.
The Americans were equally as scathing. “U.S. soldiers’ perceptions of A.N.A. members were extremely negative across categories,” the report found, using the initials for the Afghan National Army. Those categories included “trustworthiness on patrol,” “honesty and integrity,” and “drug abuse.” The Americans also voiced suspicions about the Afghans being in league with the Taliban, a problem well documented among the Afghan police.
“They are stoned all the time; some even while on patrol with us,” one soldier was quoted as saying. Another said, “They are pretty much gutless in combat; we do most of the fighting.”