Drawdown to meltdown!
Khalid Iqbal
7/5/2011

 

President Barack Obama’s announcement to begin a drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan has evoked a flashback of ‘Mikhail Gorbachev in Vladivostok’, who wanted nothing more than an honourable exit from a disastrous war. During his address to the Soviet Politburo in November, 1986, President Gorbachev said that even after six years of military effort, ‘no end was in sight’. “In general, we have not found the key to resolving this problem.” Gorbachev’s retreat was an admission of defeat. For America, the picture is not so bleak. Despite a substantial cost in blood and treasure, the US does not face an imminent disaster; though a deferred one it cannot escape.

Luckily, Obama understands that embracing of graceful failure is a better option rather than a strategic meltdown. He has asserted his leadership well in time and said: “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” Nevertheless, announcement of the drawdown without achieving the stated objectives and without any reference to “conditions on the ground” is a tacit admission of America’s eroding staying power. Moreover, the window of opportunity for a face-saving exit is narrowing down on a fast pace.
Even though the US may be able to carry on military operations at the current pace for quite some time, its national will to stay the course vis-à-vis use of military as a tool of first choice is eroding at a pretty fast pace. The House of Representatives matched the national mood by flatly rejecting a bill to authorise military operations in Libya. The resolution failed 295 to 123, with 70 Democrats bluntly crossing over to the Republican side to oppose the bill. They are of the view that operations in Libya do not qualify to be called a war, but the Congress thinks otherwise; the same corollary is applicable to the drone attacks in Pakistan.
While the Pentagon has termed the US troop drawdown as too speedy, the Taliban have termed it as ‘only a symbolic step’. However, what seemed to be a modest withdrawal plan has begun to have serious rippling effects. Taking the US plan to extricate its 33,000 troops from Afghanistan synonymous with throwing down the towel, the NATO seems to be in a tailspin of panic. Most of the NATO member states that were enthusiastic to stay much beyond 2014 during their rhetoric at the Lisbon Summit, a couple of months ago, are now eager to pull out their troops as fast as possible. For instance, Germany and France have promptly announced that they would look at scaling down their own presence in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama’s announcement to begin a drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan has evoked a flashback of ‘Mikhail Gorbachev in Vladivostok’, who wanted nothing more than an honourable exit from a disastrous war. During his address to the Soviet Politburo in November, 1986, President Gorbachev said that even after six years of military effort, ‘no end was in sight’. “In general, we have not found the key to resolving this problem.” Gorbachev’s retreat was an admission of defeat. For America, the picture is not so bleak. Despite a substantial cost in blood and treasure, the US does not face an imminent disaster; though a deferred one it cannot escape.
Luckily, Obama understands that embracing of graceful failure is a better option rather than a strategic meltdown. He has asserted his leadership well in time and said: “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” Nevertheless, announcement of the drawdown without achieving the stated objectives and without any reference to “conditions on the ground” is a tacit admission of America’s eroding staying power. Moreover, the window of opportunity for a face-saving exit is narrowing down on a fast pace.
Even though the US may be able to carry on military operations at the current pace for quite some time, its national will to stay the course vis-à-vis use of military as a tool of first choice is eroding at a pretty fast pace. The House of Representatives matched the national mood by flatly rejecting a bill to authorise military operations in Libya. The resolution failed 295 to 123, with 70 Democrats bluntly crossing over to the Republican side to oppose the bill. They are of the view that operations in Libya do not qualify to be called a war, but the Congress thinks otherwise; the same corollary is applicable to the drone attacks in Pakistan.
While the Pentagon has termed the US troop drawdown as too speedy, the Taliban have termed it as ‘only a symbolic step’. However, what seemed to be a modest withdrawal plan has begun to have serious rippling effects. Taking the US plan to extricate its 33,000 troops from Afghanistan synonymous with throwing down the towel, the NATO seems to be in a tailspin of panic. Most of the NATO member states that were enthusiastic to stay much beyond 2014 during their rhetoric at the Lisbon Summit, a couple of months ago, are now eager to pull out their troops as fast as possible. For instance, Germany and France have promptly announced that they would look at scaling down their own presence in Afghanistan.