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Rebranding Afghanistan

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
July 23, 2013
Defense One


President Barack Obama "came into office, with two active wars and tens and tens of thousands of American troops in harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a pledge to end the war in Iraq and to wind down the war in Afghanistan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week.

Only Obama didn't enter office in 2008 pledging to wind down Afghanistan. At that time, what the would-be president promised was to "make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be." In fact, Obama called the Afghanistan the "wild frontier of our globalized world" and noted that the "security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared." Candidate Obama also pledged "an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year" to "heed Marshall's lesson, and help Afghans grow their economy from the bottom up."

What is underway now from the White House is the rebranding of the Afghan war from the war "we have to win" to the war we have to exit, with little conversation in between. It is almost as if policy makers fear the public will be reminded of its longest-ever war simply by discussing it. Or hope Americans will forget it if they don't -- an objective made easier by the fact that less than one percent of the country is doing the nation's fighting.

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