Congressional Republicans aren’t the only ones against whom President Obama is playing hardball. He’s also playing it against the government of Afghanistan, a U.S. ally.
The issue is the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to Max Boot, who cites a Washington Post report, Obama has told President Karzai that if there is no agreement by October 31 on the terms for keeping a residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the United States will withdraw all of its troops at the end of 2014.
The issues that stand in the way of an agreement are substantial but not, one would think, insuperable. Reportedly, they included Karzai’s demand that the U.S. conclude a mutual-defense treaty with Afghanistan similar to those with major non-NATO allies, as well as disagreement over how much room for unilateral operations in Afghanistan U.S. Special Operations forces will retain in hunting down al-Qaeda and its ilk.
Boot suspects that Obama is using the negotiations with Karzai as the pretext for total withdrawal from Afghanistan:
I think significant elements of the administration, starting at the top, are looking for a way out of Afghanistan and they are using disputes with Karzai as an excuse. The president who once called Afghanistan the necessary war appears to be motivated now primarily by the necessity of disengagement, at least as he sees it.
The Washington Post’s story supports this assessment. David Sedney, who until May oversaw Afghanistan policy at the Department of Defense, told the Post, “It appears our attention to Afghanistan is drifting, and if we don’t do something soon, it may drift too far to recover.”
The Post also quotes a current official who says that Obama and Susan Rice appear only marginally interested in Afghanistan, as attention has shifted to Syria and a growing al-Qaeda presence in Africa. “If you look at the threat matrix,” this official said, “Afghanistan isn’t blinking the brightest. Why invest more billions and more lives?”
Boot finds that the administration’s apathy rests on dangerous short-term thinking:
The results for U.S. interests and for Afghanistan are likely to be dire, because if U.S. troops leave, so will our NATO allies. And the U.S. and its allies will be unlikely to continue pouring in the billions of dollars necessary to keep the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government functioning. That makes a collapse, of the kind that occurred after the Soviet withdrawal, much more likely–and with it a return of the Taliban and Haqqanis and their al-Qaeda allies.
I agree. Afghanistan isn’t just another territory from which, potentially, al-Qaeda and its allies can launch attacks against U.S. interests — although that would be bad enough. Afghanistan holds a sacred place in the lore of al-Qaeda and its jihadists allies.
A total U.S. pullout, coupled with the return of the Taliban, Haqqanis, and al-Qaeda, would be a huge win for our most deadly enemies. Obama’s apathy strikes me as scandalous, if not criminal.