The statement by Michael Steele, head of the Republican Party was stupid, but it did identify an issue that simply can not go away. Can President Obama bring to a conclusion America’s involvement in Afghanistan? If so, how? If not, what then? There have been three stages in US involvement in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban regime inn 2001 should immediately have been followed by: (a) beginning the process of creating an effective Afghan arm, (b) working to create an honest, effective and efficient government. George Bush, due to Iraq and his own lack of interest, never pursued these aims, and the rest is history. Stage Two was from 2002 until 2009. Bush lacked any plan, American generals were confused as to aims, let alone how to accomplish those tasks. The Taliban was allowed too return and chaos slowly, set in and has grown ever more powerful. Stage Three was Obama’s assumption of the presidency. He had his own four choices: (1) continue the status quo; (2) bring in more and more troops, (c) make clear to President Karzai there must be an effective, honest government in place, (4) Announce a date for the final departure of US and NATO troops. It is apparent he selected choice two.
In effect, in making that decision, it became his war. He did not begin the war, but he had an opportunity to leave. What might happen if US and NATO troops depart in the near future? We could readily arm local chieftains and groups and allow them to handle the Taliban. That would leave the Taliban in our role, fighting an endless series of wars and losing control of the country. It would probably resemble Somalia as a failed state. But, there is always the possibility the Taliban and local chiefs would come together and work out a compromise in which local power flourished alongside a central government. No, this is not a perfect plan, but it ends American involvement in a non-winnable war.