According to Obama, the
message to Afghans still menaced by Taliban thugs (who frighteningly
stormed Kabul last month), is that the new agreement means "as you stand
up, you will not stand alone."
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means, Congress willing, America will not bug out. Though Obama spoke
of the end of 10 "dark" years of war and a bright future of Afghan
sovereignty, the far deeper message was Americans would be situated in
Kabul and elsewhere until 2024 - and quite probably, much longer.
Obama was far more precise about what won't happen after U.S. forces withdraw fully by December 2014, than what will happen.
work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to
accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014 - counter-terrorism
and continued training," Obama said. "But we will not build permanent
bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and
mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people."
administration official, briefing reporters via a conference call in
Kabul, left nothing to imagination or Soviet-era imagination.
learned, importantly, the rule of 1989, and that's obviously clear in
this document," the official said. "In that year, the international
community abandoned Afghanistan to years of civil war, which was
followed, obviously, by Taliban rule. That is a mistake that we will
not repeat. This agreement will make clear to the Taliban, to al-Qaida,
and to other international terrorist groups, that they cannot wait us
is how Obama, who had just been sworn in as a first-term senator from
Illinois, when the Charlie Wilson's Afghan story hit the big screen,
intends to secure his peace and his legacy in Kabul. Obama wants to be
the American who stayed. Who didn't botch victory by heading for the
But will America follow his lead? Will Congress?
are momentous questions that the newly negotiated security pact with
Karzai, the product of 20 months of talks, cannot come close to
are just a few of the pesky unanswered questions for the Yanks who
seek a constant - though not "permanent" presence - in Afghanistan for
12 more years:
* Are the estimated 352,000 Afghan security forces really ready, willing and able to fight and police their country?
Are security forces just for show in populous cities like Kabul,
Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat? Will they engage in active
counter-terrorism or wait to encounter the Taliban?
* What will
the counter-terrorism footprint be in the war lord-dominated provinces
outside these and other population centers? Will it be a mirage, which
it largely is now, or something more robust with a fraction of the
current U.S. military footprint?
* What will U.S. training and counter-insurgency forces do to keep the Taliban in check? Can they?
Can Obama keep Congress and a war-weary public on board? Will NATO
forces stay with America or interpret Obama's new approach an invitation
to rush for the exit?
Congress may soon see the concrete
details of the new U.S.-Afghan security agreement. Until then, most of
the country will assume, because Obama said it, the 11-year war is
But Obama and his successors may find it difficult
to continue Charlie Wilson's war and virtually impossible to maintain
Obama's fragile peace.