Hawks, Pentagon fear Obama will speed pullout during election year.
The Occupy Wall Street uprising, and the economic crisis in general, places increased pressure on the US government to phase out the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, draw back from the Pakistan abyss, and hesitate before sending more Special Forces across the world. There are signs that President Obama is weighing an increased American withdrawal before the November 2012 election, which causes intensified alarm among war hawks.
The neo-conservative intellectual Max Boot fears that the Obama administration will approve a further reduction of American troops from Afghanistan during the 2012 election year, a move which he quotes one US official as calling “catastrophic” but should be good news for the peace and justice movement.
“In May 2012 President Obama is hosting a NATO summit in his hometown, Chicago,” writes Boot. “He could well use that occasion to announce further pullouts ahead of the US presidential election. Already the press is reporting that the White House may switch US forces to a primarily advisory mission in 2012, two years sooner than planned.” Boot’s article, “They Can Do It, Our Troops Can Win in Afghanistan, But the Key Battleground Is Washington,” appeared in the November 14 issue of The Weekly Standard, edited by conservative Republican strategist William Kristol.
But that might not happen if progressive organizations, activists and media turn all their attention away from protesting the very wars which have cost trillions in budgetary deficits. Proposed legislation by Rep. Barbara Lee and Sen. Jeff Merkley for a more rapid phase out of Afghanistan more rapidly is receiving little activist or public attention currently. Worse, Congressional peace advocates are silent on Pakistan.
The Obama administration is withdrawing troops from Iraq largely in response to the powerful anti-war movement that helped candidate Obama find his footing in the 2008 primaries. It is arguably very important that the administration see strong public support for pulling out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, two wars which Obama is reconsidering after having escalated them. In response to public opinion, the president already has decided to withdraw 33,000 of 100,000 troops from Afghanistan by next year over the strong objections of the neo-conservatives and Pentagon. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say the US should not be involved in Afghanistan while only one-third believe it’s “the right thing to do,” according to an October 3 CBS News poll.
As if to defy Obama, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is calling for a ten-year American deployment beyond the scheduled end of combat in 2014. Boot seems to be stirring a mutiny against Obama with his report from Afghanistan, written after a week-long trip highlighting “successes” on the battlefield. “A further drop beyond 68,000 would be catastrophic,” an unnamed American official told Boot, threatening to collapse the Karzai regime just as the Kabul government fell in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal in the 1980s, Boot’s source told him.
The Afghan hawks seem perched at the Center for New American Security in Washington, including retired Lt. General David Barno, the former Afghan commander who escorted Boot on his recent rounds. Another is former Army ranger Andrew Exum, whose report for the CNAS recommends that 25-35,000 American troops be kept indefinitely past 2014.
The current cost of US troops for Afghanistan war is $477.4 billion total, not including a request for $131.7 billion in FY 2012.
Afghan Economy is Basket-Case: World Bank
A new World Bank report predicts that Afghanistan will collapse economically when and if foreign troops depart, unless international donors fill the gap with aid. Ninety percent of the Kabul government’s budget comes from foreign contributions. There are not enough budget funds to expand the Afghan army to a projected 352,000 soldiers while having minimal funding for schools, health care and infrastructure, the report said.
On December 5, President Karzai is expected in Bonn to appeal for international support for his ten-year proposal.