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Why Obama Won’t Speed U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
March 18, 2012
Daily Beast


Forget about President Obama expediting U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this year. It matters not that some American soldiers are coming apart at the seams, killing innocent Afghans, and burning Qurans, or that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan screams to restrict U.S. operations. Nor will polls showing increasing numbers of Americans fed up with the war induce Obama to press the pullout button. Mr. Obama is not going to take the slightest risk that a faster exit might trigger a collapse of the Kabul government and a Taliban takeover after 10 years of sacrificing American blood and treasure. He's not going to give warhawk Republicans a campaign issue. Besides, Obama's aides keep insisting that he still believes in his Afghan goals and strategy. From the day he took office three years ago, Afghanistan became Obama's war. While this reality may not have dawned on most Americans, the president himself knows it all too well.

When Barack Obama stepped into the White House, only some 34,000 U.S. troops patrolled that historic graveyard for foreign invaders and would-be saviors. He upped that number to about 100,000, in addition to more than 40,000 allied troops. Casualties and costs skyrocketed. It was Obama who trumpeted the unachievable goals of defeating the Taliban and ensuring that al Qaeda never returned to Afghan soil to plot another attack on America soil. With this track record and all the sacrifices, he's not going to take big chances. So, he's stuck, and so is the United States.

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