Seamans: Afghanistan Now

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(HOST) As the President prepares a new critical assessment of the war in Afghanistan, commentator Bill Seamans wonders if General Petraeus and others are already giving us a sneak preview.          

(SEAMANS) Where are we in Afghanistan?  How much longer?  How many more lives?  How many more billions?  Why?  While we are overwhelmed by WikiLeaks and Christmas Creep, our attention will be diverted momentarily when President Obama gives us his Afghanistan status report next week.  Leaks from the Pentagon’s spin spigot and from the ubiquitous anonymous White House sources have been preparing us for low expectations which were confirmed by Gen. David Petraeus when interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last Sunday.

Jumping ahead of Obama’s report Petraeus, in effect, said that our troops will be fighting in Afghanistan at least until the end of 2014 – four more years – the NATO deadline for withdrawal – and maybe even longer because there’s no guarantee that the Afghan army will be able to completely take over operations from U.S. forces.  Petraeus thus indicated in his caveat-clad military-speak that there is no hard deadline for ending the 9 year old war.  Petraeus said, "No commander ever is going to come out and say ‘I’m confident that we can do this’ – I don’t think there are any sure things in this kind of endeavor."

Gen. Petraeus echoed the Lisbon summit conference last week when NATO and American officials said that if Afghanistan cannot manage its own security then 2014 was not a hard deadline for the end of combat.  It was estimated that tens of thousands of what they called "support troops" will have to remain to provide continuing training and security – translated that means American troops.  Behind-the-scenes it was said that when we can leave will remain elusive because Afghan army and police recruits are described as mostly illiterate, and corrupt with little leadership qualities.

Next week we might again hear from Obama the now familiar litany of the status quo – that we are making limited but difficult "progress" towards an undefined "victory" at some "future time" depending on the "conditions on the ground" based on whether the Afghans can assume their "own security" and assure "stability.’"   Some skeptical military and diplomatic experts claim that our war against the scandal-clad Taliban is "Failing" which Obama and Petraeus will, of course, deny.

The New York Times reported that Petraeus told the NATO meeting that "we are beginning to see a return on our investment and we have broken the Taliban’s momentum."  But a senior European official in the room reportedly said later, "Is it true or not?  I’m not so sure – to many of us it begins to have the ring of Vietnam – of confident military assessments that are not always accurate!"

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