President Barack Obama said June 28 that his newly announced drawdown of US military forces in Afghanistan will be done “in a responsible way.” Under the plan, 10,000 troops will be pulled out of the country by year’s end, and a total of 33,000 troops will be out by next summer, fully returning the “surge” troops the president announced in late 2009. (Xinhua, May 30) Simultaneously, coalition and Afghan officials will be tripling the size of a US-funded program to establish local self-defense militias to fight against insurgents. The militia forces—said to be modeled after the Sons of Iraq, led by Sunni ex-insurgents who turned against al-Qaeda—are to grow from a current 6,500 recruits to 30,000. “Where we have them trained and fully employed the Taliban is not re-emerging,” boasted Army Brig. Gen. Jefforey Smith, an assistant commanding general at the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. (USA Today, June 29)
We have noted before an Obama strategy to buy off the Taliban in Afghanistan. And we have argued before that the co-optation of ex-insurgents into surrogates in Iraq is what really led to the de-escalation of the situation there—not the surge—and this constitutes a highly dubious progress: instead of totalitarian sharia enclaves loyal to al-Qaeda, much of Sunni Iraq is now made up of totalitarian sharia enclaves loyal to the US. So is Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan a courageous step towards peace, or capitulation to Taliban tyranny?
As we noted in our last post on Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged on June 19 that the US had opened preliminary talks with members of the Taliban.