Less Than We Could Have Hoped, More Than We Could Have Expected
President Obama's speech of June 22nd laid out the following guidelines: 5,000 troops to be withdrawn starting next month, another 5,000 by the end of 2011, and the final tranche of the 30,000 troop "surge" of December 2009 to be withdrawn by the end of next summer.
It is curious that there is virtually no mention of the fact that President Obama ordered the dispatch of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan at the onset of his presidency at the beginning of 2009. This could be called the first surge. The fact is that Mr. Obama has tripled the American military presence in Afghanistan -- now some 100,000 troops -- from what it was at the end of the administration of George W. Bush.
President Obama did well to remove the effects of the "second surge" by the end of the summer of 2012. But he could have gone further: with Osama bin Laden now "sleeping with the fishes," to borrow a term from The Godfather, with al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan now numbering at most in the low hundreds, and with the Afghan Taliban never having constituted an international terrorist threat, what is there left for us to do in Afghanistan?
We do not have a moral responsibility in Afghanistan. In late 2001 we overthrew the Taliban government that was sheltering al-Qaeda. It is not our responsibility as to how many Afghan children go to school. It is our responsibility to fix the American school system. As President Obama put it in his June 22 speech, "America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home."