Another policy that the election of Francois Hollande could shift a bit is the war in Afghanistan. Hollande recommitted today to removing French troops by the end of the year, which Nicolas Sarkozy vowed as well, but only to catch up to Hollande’s position.
Last week the President announced in a surprise visit to Afghanistan that the US signed a long-term agreement with the country that would more or less keep an American presence there for an indefinite period, even as lead responsibility would allegedly transfer to the Afghan security forces. There was no sense that the numbers of troops would reduce below the pre-surge levels at any point in the foreseeable future.
And now we have an embarrassing admission, a bipartisan agreement from the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, that the surge in Afghanistan, if its mission was to stop the advance of the Taliban in the country, completely failed its objectives.
The leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees said Sunday they believe that the Taliban has grown stronger since President Obama sent 33,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2010.
The pessimistic report by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) challenges Obama’s assessment last week in his visit to Kabul that the “tide had turned” and that “we broke the Taliban’s momentum.”
Feinstein and Rogers told CNN’s “State of the Union” that they aren’t so sure. The two recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the region, where they met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
“President Karzai believes that the Taliban will not come back. I’m not so sure,” Feinstein said. “The Taliban has a shadow system of governors in many provinces.”
When asked if the Taliban’s capabilities have been degraded since Obama deployed the additional troops two years ago, Feinstein said: “I think we’d both say that what we’ve found is that the Taliban is stronger.”
So that should be pretty big news. We sent 33,000 troops to Afghanistan, in the name of changing focus away from Iraq and toward the “real threat,” and at the end of the surge, the Taliban had not retreated but grown stronger? You have the very definition of a counter-productive situation there.
Both Feinstein and Rogers have different lessons to take from this, and I probably have a third (approximately, “get the hell out”). But the results really speak for themselves. The Administration’s machinations to secure a long-term basing agreement, including secret prison transfers and all the rest, amounted to pretty much nothing. The return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is a question of when, and our end to the occupation is a matter of how many soldiers’ lives and taxpayer dollars will be lost until that moment.