Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

15 years on, the Afghan war still defies US timelines
By Andrew BEATTY
Washington (AFP) Oct 7, 2016

Fifteen years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama and the American military have dug in for a long campaign that defies rigid timelines and easy barometers of victory.

On October 7, 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush launched Operation Enduring Freedom to dislodge the Taliban and capture or kill Al-Qaeda militants they were harboring.

For much of the 15 years since, the US has groped for a strategy -- flitting between trying to chase down jihadis, take accursed terrain, stand up a fragile government or beat back a dogged Taliban insurgency.

Obama came to office in 2009, promising a war-weary US electorate that he would bring the troops home.

But, after a series of missed deadlines and some semantic gymnastics about the definition of combat, he finally abandoned his pledge during his last year in office.

Insisting that he opposes "the idea of endless war," Obama has acknowledged his presidency will end before America's longest conflict does.

Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, who have barely discussed Afghanistan on the campaign trail, will inherit a much smaller war -- with some 9,000 US troops on the ground -- but one with no clear end in sight.

"Right now we don't have a time-bound commitment," said a senior US administration official, who asked not to be named. "It will be up to the next administration to determine how it wants to proceed."

- War without end -

That debate is likely to start with a fundamental question: Is a secure Afghanistan still a vital American strategic interest?

"You could ask, now that Al-Qaeda has been decimated, do we still have a reason to be in this region? It's a very legitimate question and certainly a question the next administration will ask very early on," said the official.

Afghan officials argue that the administration of Ashraf Ghani is trying hard to root out the corruption and bad governance that defined Hamid Karzai's decade in power.

"It would be an incredible mistake not to safeguard the progress that has been made," a senior Afghan official told AFP.

Afghan security forces still need training and US air power, the official said, as well as help in stopping Pakistan from harboring Taliban and Haqqani network leaders.

Few US officials, either current and former, would disagree with that assessment.

Many point to the experience of the 1990s as evidence for the need to stay.

Back then Washington, having watched their mujahedeen allies oust the Soviets, began to disengage.

"Ignoring Afghanistan proved unwise," a group of respected generals and ambassadors -- including Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus -- recently wrote in an open letter urging a sustained US commitment.

"The turmoil that ensued in Afghanistan after 1989 ultimately gave rise to the Taliban -- and then to the sanctuary for Al-Qaeda that the Taliban provided Osama bin Laden."

- Timelines and deadlines -

Unlike Bush, Obama has been willing to bring the Taliban into the peace negotiations with Kabul, so long as they respect the rule of law and hard-won progress on things like women's rights.

But so far, neither the US killing of hardline Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour nor Kabul brokering a peace deal with a notorious warlord has convinced militants to come to the negotiating table.

Earlier this month Taliban insurgents launched an assault to retake Kunduz and so delegitimize the government, before being repelled.

Washington is betting it's a matter of time before the Taliban, increasingly confined to rural areas and facing stiffer opposition from Afghan forces, change their calculus.

"The Taliban, who are equally resilient I'll grant you that, are learning that they are not able to gain their objectives," the US official said. "They have not be able to gain control and hold strategic terrain."

"So the question is, how long will they persist in this strategy?"

For much of Obama's tenure, it was an open question how long the United States would wait to find out.

His declarations of timelines and determination to drawdown forces has been criticized for sending mixed signals about US commitment and thus encouraging the Taliban and elements in the Pakistani security services to wait Washington out.

The administration argues they have offered a vital leverage.

"The Afghan security forces, I'm positive of this, would not have developed in the manner they have developed -- which in general has been very, very positive -- had it not been for the requirement imposed upon them by the international community for them to become more self-reliant," said the US official.

But setting a hard timeline of ending the war in 2014 was "the explicit announcement that the Taliban just capitalized on," said Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution.

Obama's departure is likely to make such timelines and troop numbers less of a political hot potato.

That may be fitting in a war where victory is illusive and success or failure cannot be easily measured by the number of boots on the ground.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
News From Across The Stans

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
200,000 Afghan refugees return in exodus from Pakistan: UNHCR
Islamabad (AFP) Oct 4, 2016
More than 200,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Pakistan this year, nearly half of them in September alone, UNHCR said Tuesday, the highest number since 2002, after the fall of the Taliban regime. The tsunami of refugees returning to the war-torn country comes after Pakistan tightened its border controls in June and began cracking down on undocumented Afghans. The vast major ... read more

Ariane 5 reaches the launch zone for Arianespace's October 4 liftoff

Rocket launch site to open up New Zealand space industry: Minister

NASA develops satellite concept to exploit rideshare opportunities

Arianespace to launch satellites for Australia and India with Ariane 5

Yorkshire salt mine could help shed light on Martian life

NASA's Curiosity Rover Begins Next Mars Chapter

Pioneering Space Requires Living Off the Land in the Solar System

Unusual Martian region leaves clues to planet's past

Exploration Team Shoots for the Moon with Water-Propelled Satellite

Space tourists eye $150mln Soyuz lunar flyby

Roscosmos to spend $7.5Mln studying issues of manned lunar missions

Lockheed Martin, NASA Ink Deal for SkyFire Infrared Lunar Discovery Satellite

Shedding light on Pluto's glaciers

Chandra detects low-energy X-rays from Pluto

Scientists discover what extraordinary compounds may be hidden inside Jupiter and Neptune

New Horizons Spies a Kuiper Belt Companion

Protoplanetary Disk Around a Young Star Exhibits Spiral Structure

New Low-Mass Objects Could Help Refine Planetary Evolution

Pluto's heart sheds light on a possible buried ocean

Hubble Finds Planet Orbiting Pair of Stars

Welding on massive fuel tank for first flight of SLS completed

Work underway on hardware that will do double duty on first SLS flight

Ascent Trajectories and the Gravity Turn

Major construction complete on first Space Launch System test stand

Waiting for Shenzhou 11

Tiangong-2 space lab enters preset orbit for docking with manned spacecraft

Batch production of Long March 5 underway

Chinese Space Lab Tiangong-2 Ready to Dock With Manned Spacecraft

Rosetta's comet adventure in numbers

Farewell Rosetta: ESA Mission to Conclude on Comet's Surface

Alice Ultraviolet Spectrograph Completes Rosetta Mission to Comet 67P

Rosetta measures production of water at comet over two years

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement