Why Obama Is Right to Withdraw From Afghanistan Early

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai shake hands during a joint news conference in Kabul

From James Joyner, the Atlantic:  The Obama administration’s acceleration of its Afghanistan withdrawal deadline to 2013, a year earlier than planned, is a break with America’s commitment to its NATO and Afghan allies , an abandonment of a mission Obama deemed "essential" in his 2008 campaign, and kills any chances of negotiating an acceptable settlement with the Taliban. It’s also the right thing to do. . . .

So how can a decision that undermines our allies and our own negotiating power nonetheless be the right one? Because the alternative is to continue getting people killed — not to mention inadvertently killing innocents — in a fight we can’t win.

The recent release of a secret NATO report on the Taliban focused on "revelations" that they’re being directly helped by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency — something anyone even casually familiar with the region has taken for granted for quite some time. The more valuable takeaway was the resilience of our enemy.

The report notes of the Taliban, "Despite numerous setbacks, surrender is far from their collective mindset. For the moment, they believe that continuing the fight and expanding Taliban governance are their only viable course of action. . . ."

It’s become painfully obvious in recent months that the governments in both Kabul and Islamabad are, to put it mildly, less than reliable allies. There’s simply no reason to think staying another year is somehow going to turn things around.

Whether NATO’s goals are achievable with unlimited time and resources is debatable. It’s also moot. Most of our allies were going to have, at most, a token force in Afghanistan through the end of 2014. They were there largely at America’s urging and they’ll be happy to leave. . . .

As with many other Obama foreign policy decisions, one might have wished for a better rollout. Consultation with our NATO allies and partners on the matter would have been good form. And, after a more than a decade of fighting, a presidential speech rather than a casual announcement by the defense secretary would have been more fitting.

Ultimately, though, hastening the day Americans stop dying for a lost cause is the right call.  (photo: Reuters)

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