First the president spoke to the troops, then to the American people. In a live address from Afghanistan, Barack Obama echoed his predecessor: “I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security.”
The echo is not in the language, but the insincerity. It’s getting tougher and tougher to argue that policing Afghanistan’s civil war has much to do with American national security, particularly after the death one year ago of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida poster boy who was found in neighboring Pakistan of all places.
And although he signed a commitment to support the country (and presumably the regime of kleptocrat President Hamid Karzai) until 2024, the president suggested that the age of war—not just the conflict in Afghanistan—was coming to an end.
“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation. ...
“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
For proof of his sincerity, Obama cited the other major war he inherited (and though he inherited both, this was the one that didn’t hold his interest or support): Iraq. “The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al-Qaida.”
Just a reminder, to the president and those who read this: Estimates by former CIA chief now-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had fewer than 100 al-Qaida members left fighting in Afghanistan as of 2010. Do we really need another two years (plus 10 more of support) to get them? Do we really need to get them at all? —PZS