Most of the night raids are conducted with Afghan security forces, but according to General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of ISAF’s Joint Command, the fledgling Afghan security forces don’t yet have the capacity to execute such raids alone.
While the status of night raid operations may still be a resolvable issue, less so is the increasing belief that President Obama’s policy toward Afghanistan is being dictated squarely on how it affects his re-election prospects in November 2012.
After all, a lukewarm effort by Obama to negotiate an extension of US troops in Iraq beyond 2011 makes it seems unlikely that he will go the extra mile to extend an American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
For starters, Obama has already planned to withdraw by September 2012 the 33,000 troops he sent to Afghanistan in 2009 as part of a surge in forces. That decision was met unfavorably by then-ISAF commander General David Petraeus, who had argued at the time to limit the initial withdrawal to 3,000 to 4,000 as to not risk undermining the war on the ground.
Now, reports are beginning to surface that American generals are beginning to worry that Obama is planning to accelerate the 2014 timetable by removing more than the 33,000 surge forces. As one NATO official has said, the chances of the remaining American force in 2012 staying at 68,000 are “marginal at best.”
To be fair, if Obama is indeed intent on hastening a withdrawal from Afghanistan, that view is increasingly being shared by growing widespread unhappiness at home over the ten year war. That discontent raised its head recently when a bi-partisan group of US Senators called on President Obama to accelerate the 2014 timetable.
As one of the Senators, Republican Rand Paul, explained, “We cannot continue endless nation-building efforts overseas while here at home we face expounding national debt, crumbling infrastructure and out-of-control spending in Washington.”
For his part, President Obama recently declared that it is still necessary to “see the job through in Afghanistan,” while US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, has said, 2014 “is not the date when the United States and the international community just walks away from Afghanistan.”
Of course, many Afghans are understandably nervous of what will happen if the US walks away from Afghanistan. According to the UN, the number of Afghans killed by Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents in 2011 was nearly 1,000.
In November alone, 11 people, including six children, died in a roadside bombing; 7 civilians were killed and 17 others wounded in a suicide attack at a mosque in Baghlan province; and seven children were killed by two roadside bombs in the southern province of Uruzgan.
Yet, according to ISAF commander, General John Allen, despite the insurgent terror attacks, coalition forces “have taken back key Taliban territory across Afghanistan in 2011 and are continuing to hold it, allowing security conditions to continue to improve.”
However, the absence of firm and specific American commitments beyond 2014 seem likely to make those security improvements at best temporary in nature, something nearly 3,000 American and Coalition soldiers have died trying to prevent.
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