America’s Post-2014 Afghanistan Game Plan
Image Credit: White House Photo by Pete Souza

America’s Post-2014 Afghanistan Game Plan


After months of debate in the U.S. defense community and anxious waiting from Afghan watchers, General John R. Allen—the senior American commander in the Afghan war—has finally given President Barack Obama his professional opinion on how many troops should stay in Afghanistan after the NATO mission concludes at the end of 2014. When that milestone is reached, the United States and its NATO allies will be formally handing over responsibility for Afghan security to the country’s national army and police.  But just as the Obama administration tried to do in Iraq, the White House would prefer to keep a residual U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan even after the formal mission is complete.

According to a story in the New York Times this week, which cites unnamed U.S. officials, Gen. Allen has come away from his security review with three broad options for Obama’s national security team to consider.  The first would leave approximately 6,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014, whose mission would be primarily geared towards a narrow, yet intense, counterterrorism operation that would concentrate on high-value Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets.   The second option increases the troop level to 10,000, providing the U.S. military with greater leverage on the ground and an ability to continue partnering and training Afghan security forces. The third and by far most extensive recommendation would see 20,000 Americans staying in country, leaving open the possibility that conventional U.S. troop units would be able to patrol certain neighborhoods when needed.

President Obama is expected to consider all three options next week when he meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House.  Both the Americans and Afghans are still in the middle of complicated negotiations over granting the post-2014 U.S. troops immunity from prosecution by Afghan authorities. Karzai has been tough throughout the entire process on this issue.  If the past is any guide to the future, the Afghan President will likely advocate leaving the smallest post-2014 U.S. troop presence in the country in order to burnish Afghanistan’s newfound sovereignty as an independent nation-state, and perhaps elevate his legacy as a statesman before stepping down permanently in 2014. 

In the end, however, Karzai may not need to worry about what Obama is thinking.  The war in Afghanistan has become a sore point for the Obama administration, punctuated by the enormous rise in insider attacks on coalition forces and the persistent tenacity and lethality of the Taliban insurgency. Whenever the Obama White House publicly speaks about the war these days, the discussion is centered on bringing the post-9/11 wars to a close rather than emphasizing the successes that have been made after years of fighting  Nothing better illustrated this than the Vice Presidential debate in October, when Vice President Joe Biden passionately hammered home to Paul Ryan and the American people that the U.S. would be out by 2014 regardless of conditions on the ground.

Tactically speaking, the 6,000-troop option may not be enough for U.S. commanders, most of whom would prefer to have as many resources and the greatest latitude as possible to execute their mission.  Yet for Presidents Obama and Karzai—two leaders who are eager to normalize a U.S.-Afghan relationship that has largely been dictated by Washington for the past eleven years—a few thousand American soldiers to track down and kill wanted terrorists may very well be the best package that they can sell to their war-weary citizens.

Daniel R. DePetris is a Washington, D.C. analyst and a past contributor to The Diplomat.

January 16, 2013 at 22:57

Unfortunately US has lost in this Afghan war and Obama is now only want a face saving quick exit (To me killing Osama last year was part of this game plan only, otherwise he would have been killed much before).
Take away are these:
*  US is negotiating with Taliban for their role in post 2014 Afghanistan and Pakistan is a broker here.
* Whatever is the negotiations, Taliban is bound to take over Afghanistan after 2014 and apply their own will (irrespective of the negotiation done with US). US will be in no position to review war in Afghanistan nor would be interested in it. (China and its downgraded economy is more important now)
* Pakistan is a winner (and looser) here at the same time. Winner because it always wanted to control Afghanistan (using Taliban)  and keep India at bay and also in collaboration with China (and also Russia under SCO) they will enjoy the resources of Afghanistan for their economic development.
It is looser as terrorism in Pakistan has grown to such a great extent that in coming years Pakistan itself would be partially govern by Taliban and to some extent, there will be practically difficult to distinguish if Pak Army/ISI and Taliban are same or different. It only means that Pakistan will go into deeper extremism and return of democracy is near impossible now.
* Immediate biggest looser will be India as after securing Afghanistan, Pak Army and ISI will now again revive their proxy war in Kashmir (it means more and more terrorist against in India, and in Particular Kashmir) This has already begin in last 10 days
* Long term biggest losers will be India, China, entire central Asia, Russia as very strong Taliban (with Nuclear bombs in the form of radicalized Pak Army, ISI and population) will work for their ultimate plan to fight enemies of Islam and non Muslims and establish the law of Allah.
My Fantasy:
Arab know that they have a say into this world as they have oil. Due to factors like oil depletion  ( in next 30 years), massive oil production by US, renewable energy etc, relevance of Arab (kingdom) is diminishing fast. In next 50 years, without oil, Arab will be good for nothing for this world. They neither have their own technology nor market what they will have is sand, lots of sand.
the day Arab is not relevant, civil war will happen there and kingdom will be removed and democratic establishment will be placed. (this process has already started in Arab world)
To avoid this frightening situation, Arab has an ultimate weapon, weapon of Islam. Islamist is working on concept called citizenship by religion and not by borders. All Muslims are one (irrespective of which country they belongs). According to this concept, Islamic forces are merging all Muslims together throughout the world and slowly working to make existing political maps of this world irrelevant. Once this is done, you guys know here is Meca Madina, yes its in Arab the home of all Islamic decision making body.
Arab can rule this world if it consolidate all Muslims into one ideology and can prove that all muslims are one and have common interest. That day, Arab will ask Muslims to boycott their respective constitutions and only follow Sharia (which will be governed by Arab using fatwas)
In case of any damage done to Arab (Islamic icon), Muslims of the respective attacking countries (and entire world) will stand against their own governments in the name of Islam.
This has already started in Western countries in small capacity. Also to be noted Islam is the fastest growing religion in this world. By 2050, it would be the biggest religion with their foot print in all nations in this world.

January 12, 2013 at 22:52

When the U.S. completely leaves, so will Karzai and billions of $$$ with him.

January 9, 2013 at 12:33

NATO troop casualties steadily fell in 2011 and 2012. However, if troops are reduced, NATO casualties will rise again. A minimum of 100,000 total NATO troops must be on ground. Otherwise it is better to withdraw fully. Once NATO reduces its operations in Afghanistan, Taliban will rise up again. The present humanitarian operations of NATO are very popular among Afghans that takes the winds out of Taliban sails. When it stops in 2014 it will be chaos. 

Hanged Drawn and Quartered
January 8, 2013 at 16:45

If the U.S. continues to stay in Afghanistan and make more trouble in Pakistan, the whole region will eventually bursts into one huge conflagration with the fires possibly reaching all the way to the White House with Barry's pants up in flames and burning fiercely. The U.S. hasn't learned anything useful at all from 9-11, it seems.

talking points
January 7, 2013 at 05:38

20k troops is the minimum. Otherwise just get out

January 7, 2013 at 02:16

Out of curiousity how does this policy impact American drone efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Does this draw down also mean a reduction on drone strikes, or are those immune to military withdrawal?

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