President Obama yesterday announced that the U.S. will leave about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan by 2016, ending the war in Afghanistan.
Is it too soon to ask who won the war?
Writing on Vox, Max Fisher says it was the Taliban.
The Obama administration is announcing its withdrawal schedule without having struck a peace deal with the Taliban, the Afghanistan-based insurgent group that briefly ruled the country, sheltered al-Qaeda during the 2001 attacks, and has been the chief military antagonist in the war. The US made a big push to strike a peace deal with the Taliban first, in the hopes that the uncertain withdrawal timetable would give the US leverage for a deal.
But the talks fell apart and the US is withdrawing anyway. So the Taliban will keep fighting, 15 years and 2000 American lives after the US invaded to push them out. In a press call previewing the announcement, a senior White House official said that the US was focused on the threat from al-Qaeda and that the Taliban was for the Afghan government to deal with. That was not always US policy, which for some time asserted that the Taliban gave al-Qaeda safe haven (true) and thus that defeating the Taliban was necessary to curb the al-Qaeda threat (debatable).
The Obama administration hoped it could separate out the Taliban from al-Qaeda, the latter of which it has gotten pretty good at fighting, by getting the Taliban to renounce the group and promise not to shelter it. The US never got that pledge — the Taliban seems to have decided, rightly, that it could wait us out — so it is making the decision to separate them out on its own.
Today, President Obama will speak to the U.S. Military Academy and outline what’s next after Afghanistan.
Update– Here are the presidents remarks.