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Dan Gilmore / Oct. 15, 2015

Obama to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

If Obama lowballs the number of troops needed…

Maybe you can teach an ideologue new tricks. Last year, Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan was to bring the war “to a responsible end.” He wanted to pull most U.S. troops from the country until only 1,000 remained at the U.S. embassy. But with a wavering Afghan army and criticism by his generals, Obama has shifted course, saying he will keep the force shy of 10,000 troops in the country for now, but by the time he leaves office, Obama says he wants 5,500 troops there.

He has shifted from fulfilling his campaign promise to end the war to leaving the problem for the next administration. It’s the least he can do. If we want to see what would happen when a strong military presence is removed from Afghanistan, just look at what happened in the Afghan city of Kunduz, where the Taliban took the city, ferried out weapons, supplies and told the residents that they had nothing to fear. And with that buildup of Taliban and the Islamic State, what can a few thousand U.S. troops actually accomplish?

If Obama continues to lowball the number of troops needed, he will imperil U.S. interests in Afghanistan. Obama administration diplomat James Dobbins, who once represented our nation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said, “I can’t promise you that retaining a commitment at the current level will ultimately yield a completely peaceful settled and stable Afghanistan. … You like Syria? How would you like to have another one?” The more apt comparison is Iraq, where Obama’s bull-headed and politically motivated abandonment created a vacuum now filled by the Islamic State.

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