Barack Obama is a man who sees the end of the line. He is going to spend the next six months just phoning in his job from the golf course. Today is another example. Having pledged to dramatically decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan and telegraphed his intentions to the Taliban, he is now having to walk that back. Turns out we may have stopped fighting the Taliban, but they have not stopped fighting us.
President Barack Obama plans to increase to about 8,400 the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office.…
The numbers reflect a compromise between Obama’s original plan and what many military commanders had recommended.
Obama had planned to drop troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500 troops by the end of 2016. But Taliban resurgence has forced Washington to rethink its exit strategy.
When the President announced he was going to keep dropping the level of troops through 2016, all the Taliban had to do was sit back and wait. They did and are now surging again throughout Afghanistan. This was predictable and obvious to every single person with common sense.
But what’s more, the President’s policy is that even though the Taliban is fighting us, we are still not fighting them.
The Wall Street Journal has an amazing story about this. Lawyers have to be involved in every aspect of trooops’ lives in Afghanistan because we are technically not fighting the Taliban anymore.
U.S. spy drones had no trouble spotting the Taliban fighters. There were more than 20 figures snaking through sparsely wooded hills, trying to outflank the Afghan government commandos in the village below.
In the starry darkness overhead, American helicopters loitered armed with precision-guided missiles, along with a flying gunship capable of drenching the area with cannon-fire. It would have been a hard shot to miss.
But before they could fire, the Americans knew they would have to get past the lawyers.
“We’re not at war with the Taliban,” said one of the senior U.S. Green Berets. The U.S. military prohibits them from releasing their names.
Since 2014, American special-operations troops and aircraft have been allowed to strike the Taliban only when the insurgents present a direct threat to U.S. or allied forces, or if the Afghan government faces a catastrophic failure such as loss of a major city.
Troops up and down the chain of command, though, say that in practice the rules are mushy, open to interpretation about what constitutes justifiable violence, particularly when only Afghan soldiers are directly in harm’s way. U.S. commanders and military lawyers make seat-of-the-pants calls every day about using force against the Taliban, trying simultaneously to respect the rules, avoid killing civilians and spare their allies casualties that a quick airstrike might prevent.
If we cannot recognize that the Taliban is still the enemy of the United States, we might as well just pull all the troops out of Afghanistan and see what happens. Our soldiers should not have to lawyer up to kill those we know are bad guys. But in Barack Obama’s Administration, they must.
President Obama: "By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 13, 2013