Mark Collins – US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama Punts to Next POTUS

Further to this post,

US Kunduz Killings Mess/Five Thousand US Forces Post-2016?

and with events not necessarily proceeding to Kabul’s advantage, the president bites the (supposedly non-combat) bullet and fails in his dream to end a second US war (telling the enemy your plans in some detail is not a very bright way to conduct military matters):

Obama outlines plan to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan

President Obama said Thursday [Oct. 15] he will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2017, ending his ambitions to bring home most American forces from that war-torn country before he leaves office.

The president said his decision came after an extensive months-long review that included regular discussions with Afghanistan’s leaders, his national security team and U.S. commanders in the field. The move reflected a painful, if predictable, reality on the ground in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has made gains over the last year as Afghan troops have taken over the vast majority of the fighting.

“Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be,” Obama said Thursday morning from the White House, explaining his decision. “Meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains particularly in rural areas and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul.”

Obama said he will also dramatically slow the pace of the reduction of American forces and plans to maintain the current U.S. force of 9,800 through “most of 2016.” The post-2016 force would still be focused on training and advising the Afghan army, with a special emphasis on its elite counterterror forces. The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al-Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States…

Obama emphasized that Afghans would continue to take the lead role in the fighting, with Americans providing advice and some counterterrorism support from bases outside Kabul. “These bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission,” he said.

The change in course acknowledges the struggle that Afghan forces, which are suffering casualties at what military officials have called an “unsustainable” rate, confront as they battle Taliban offensives not just in Kunduz but in Ghazni and other areas…

At a press conference late defense secretary Carter said US forces would only directly support Afghan security forces in the field versus the Taliban “in extremis” (e.g. Kunduz).  So counter-terror missions in which bad guys are killed are defined as not “combat”; but in order to say you are no longer in combat you severely restrict your help to your ally in its main fight.  All in order to maintain the–disingenuous–claim that the US is out of combat.  Politics beating practicality.

Meanwhile there are the some 6,000 non-American forces (no Canada) serving with NATO’s Operation Resolute Support who get far to little notice in North American media:


Resolute Support Placemat
The placemat displays approximate numbers of forces provided to Resolute Support by Allied and other contributing nations, and countries responsible for RSM Train, Advise and Assist Commands.

Download PDF:  Troop Numbers and Contributions (Valid as of June 2015)

How many will carry on?

US anticipates new commitments from ‘key allies’ in Afghanistan: Carter

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Thursday he believes NATO allies will renew or adjust their contributions to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan as Washington extends its mission.

“We anticipate that the US commitment will in turn garner the commitment of other members of the coalition that US forces have operated with,” Carter said, speaking the same day President Barack Obama announced plans to keep thousands of extra troops in Afghanistan.

“I’ve already initiated consultations with key allies to secure their continued support for this mission.”

The background:

This map explains why Obama decided to leave thousands of troops in Afghanistan




Ah, the irresolute Obama.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


9 thoughts on “Mark Collins – US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama Punts to Next POTUS”

  1. The US only has political interests in Afghanistan not strategic ones. Is there any thing at all the US is doing that will make things better in the country? No.

    What they should really do is cut a deal with the SCO group to take over supervision of Afghanistan under the auspices of the UN and then leave. But it is politically impossible to leave some where once it has been added to the empire.

    1. More:

      NATO nations to keep presence in Afghanistan

      Germany, Turkey, and Italy are prepared to keep their deployments in Afghanistan at current levels, according to statements by senior NATO officials on Monday (Reuters). While discussions of precise numbers continue, Gen. Phillip Breedlove, NATO’s senior commander in Europe, said, “Several of our largest contributors have already communicated with us that they will remain in their current posture,” but declined to specify nations. Another senior NATO official confirmed Germany, Turkey, and Italy were willing to sustain forces at current levels. NATO has not set an end date for Resolute Support, its training mission in Afghanistan. A formal decision will likely be announced in early December at NATO’s next meeting of its foreign ministers, according to a third official…’

      Mark Collins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s