US President Barack Obama indicated in his first major press conference on the year that he considers it time to end the US-led war in Afghanistan. It is of course high time that the President arrived at that conclusion. However, Obama did not announce any acceleration of US plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 2014. Therefore it is unclear what the purpose of his statement was.
Perhaps it was meant as a warning to Afghans. If so, it could backfire. Afghans — particularly President Hamid Karzai — are sure to notice that Obama labels as “unacceptable” attacks on US troops in Afghanistan in retaliation for the US military’s accidental burning of Korans, but never said anything similar about repeated Afghan civilian deaths resulting from US or NATO airstrikes. Afghans could get the message that six US troop deaths are unnacceptable to Obama while thousands of US/NATO-caused “collateral” Afghan civilian deaths are acceptable.
Enough editorializing. Here’s the news report (excerpted):
Obama: Time has come to wind down Afghan war
March 06, 2012 6:20 PM EST, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Amid fresh concerns over the safety of American forces, President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the accidental burning of Qurans in Afghanistan and the retaliatory killings of US troops gave new credence to the need to end the war.
“I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it’s an indication that now is the time for us to transition,” Obama said during a White House news conference.
Obama announced no speeding up of the NATO-backed plan to end combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, saying “that continues to be the plan.” But he said the violence aimed at Americans in Afghanistan that followed the accidental burning of Qurans on a US base was “unacceptable.”
Six Americans were killed in retaliatory violence. Obama offered his apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a move that was roundly criticized by his Republican presidential rivals as weak and unnecessary.
From Congress, Obama was getting tugged from another direction. A letter calling for Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan had the backing of 23 senators, mostly Democrats but including two conservative Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who circulated the letter with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement that there “something fundamentally wrong with spending $88 billion for national building in Afghanistan while we’re asking Americans to make tough cuts here at home.”
Addressing another international crisis in Syria, Obama said the violence there was “heartbreaking” but he showed no new willingness for military involvement in that Mideast country.
Obama said unilateral military action by the United States against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be a mistake. And he rejected a comparison to Libya, where the United States and allies did intervene last year, saying the situation in Syria is more complex. … Assad’s military is better equipped and more powerful than the Libyan force.
Related Previous PeacePundit Posts
- Senator Barbara Boxer: End Afghanistan War
- Truth, Lies and Afghanistan
- Taliban Defiance Undiminished by bin Laden’s Death
- Osama bin Laden is Dead. Bring the Troops Home.
- Karzai: Military Strategy in Afghanistan is Counterproductive
- Ten Reasons a Troop Surge in Afghanistan is a Mistake
- Memo to Obama, Clinton, and Gates: Stop Digging!
- Don’t Call It “Collateral Damage”