A soldier looks out the back of a helicopter in Afghanistan. (Pic: Paul McLeary)
When President Barack Obama accepted International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation in June and named Gen. David Petraeus to lead U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, questions about the direction of the war were met with pleas for patience, as the American public was told to wait for a promised Afghan strategy review in December.
The review didn’t live up to its billing. While it reported some progress in security and governance across Afghanistan, it also said that progress has been uneven and could be reversible. Petraeus and the administration may have used the document to buy more time for their population-centric counterinsurgency strategy to work.
In his Dec. 1, 2009, speech at West Point calling for more troops in Afghanistan (DTI January 2010, p. 39), Obama identified July 2011 as the point at which the U.S. would begin handing over control to Afghan security forces and local governments. Subsequent comments pointed toward the December 2010 review as a kind of make-or-break moment in the war.
But in a sleight of hand, NATO leadership used the organization’s Lisbon Summit in November as the real strategic review, moving the goalposts to 2014, now set as the date when security will be transferred to Afghan forces. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary general, made sure to keep the door open even longer, saying “we will not transition until our partners are ready . . . we will stay to finish the job.” He added that “the process must be conditions-based, not calendar-based.”
Read the rest of this story over at DTI...