In late 2009, President Barack Obama announced U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan would begin in July 2011writes Marco Vicenzino as France immediately picks up from the Apologizer-in-Chief's speech and decides to withdraw as well.
As the self-imposed deadline approaches, a token drawdown should suffice for the president to save political face without seriously risking operational effectiveness. Realities on the ground must determine strategy. The president’s deadline was always illusory. It was a concession to placate his party’s grassroots when announcing the Afghan surge of 30,000 troops. It also puzzled allies, confused publics in NATO member-states and undermined the international mission’s credibility.
Undoubtedly, a lasting political settlement with insurgents presents the only way out of the current conflict.
However, Obama’s public eagerness for negotiations creates the risky perception of a rush for the exit door. Sensing weakness, insurgents may drive an even tougher bargain. The insurgency is far from monolithic. Unless a broad consensus emerges in its ranks, negotiations will prove futile.
In addition, it is naïve to think Osama Bin Laden’s death or increased drone attacks alone will force rebels to the table. Most grievances remain local. Unless substantially addressed, little will change.