We can only hope that Leon Panetta was ad-libbing when he stated that the United States and NATO would seek to end operations in Afghanistan by next year, given the fact that the Afghans are not yet prepared to provide for their own security needs, and given that the Taliban will take note of such pronouncements, and wait for American and NATO troops to depart before likely launching an offensive aimed at regaining as much power as they can regain, and possibly using any territory they recapture in order to host terrorist elements. But if this wasn’t an ad-lib–and there is no indication that it was–then we should fear the advent of a new round of violence in Afghanistan once American and NATO troops leave, and an undermining of American security interests in the region. All of this, of course, is likely being done for domestic purposes; the Obama administration dearly wants to win the favor of voters by accelerating a departure from Afghanistan, and the end of a war that is unpopular. But good politics doesn’t always make good policy. It certainly doesn’t in this case.
A wise administration would do everything within its power to cause America’s enemies to believe that the United States will be willing to fight for however long it takes to secure our interests, and to assist our Afghan allies in a critical region of the world. But we do not have a wise administration, only a deeply cynical one.
In addition to letting the Taliban know how long they need to wait us out, the administration has also decided to transfer Taliban prisoners to Qatar, with no guarantee whatsoever that they will remain in prison once they get to the country. John McCain’s critique of the plan is precisely on point; too bad that the administration won’t listen to him in the slightest. Winning re-election is more important than crafting a sound policy on Afghanistan, it would appear.