Today, the 11th anniversary of the arrival of the first illegally detained prisoner at Guantanamo, Obama met with Hamid Karzai. He took the opportunity to use the word responsible. A lot. “[by the end of 2014] Afghans will have full responsibility for their security, and this war will come to a responsible end.” “a responsible drawdown”. “And next year, this long war will come to a responsible end.” “a responsible plan”, “a responsible Afghan government” etc.
UNFORTUNATELY, BY “AFGHAN FORCES,” I MEAN THE TALIBAN: “soon nearly 90 percent of Afghans will live in areas where Afghan forces are in the lead for their own security.”
“WITHIN REACH” IS THE NEW “LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL”: “With the devastating blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda, our core objective -- the reason we went to war in the first place -- is now within reach: ensuring that al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against our country.”
MORE SECURE – WE’RE TOTALLY WINNING THIS WEAKEST AND MOST VAGUE OF METRICS: “Today, most major cities -- and most Afghans -- are more secure, and insurgents have continued to lose territory.”
SEE? AFGHANS ARE DYING, SO IT WAS ALL TOTALLY WORTH IT: “And of all the men and women in uniform in Afghanistan, the vast majority are Afghans who are fighting and dying for their country every day.”
A DIFFERENT MISSION: “Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission -- training, advising, assisting Afghan forces.”
AND NOTHING SAYS RESPECT FOR AFGHAN SOVEREIGNTY LIKE HEAVILY ARMED FOREIGN TROOPS WITH FULL IMMUNITY FROM AFGHAN LAWS: “Our teams continue to work toward a security agreement. And as they do, they will be guided by our respect for Afghan sovereignty”.
The talks with the Afghan government are about how many American troops will remain after 2014 and on the continuation of “targeted counterterrorism missions against al Qaeda and its affiliates,” in case you thought Obama actually planned to end this war two years from now.
DOES ANYONE KNOW THE EXACT DATE ON WHICH OBAMA GAVE UP EVEN PRETENDING THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO DEFEAT THE TALIBAN? “So we recommitted our nations to a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”
I GUESS THE AFGHAN PEOPLE’S SACRIFICES ARE SIGNIFICANT BUT NOT TREMENDOUS: “Our forces continue to serve and make tremendous sacrifices every day. The Afghan people make significant sacrifices every day.”
Then Karzai spoke. He said the talks have made progress on issues of Afghan sovereignty, which he seems to define largely in terms of getting hold of the detainees currently held by the American military, an issue that for some reason Obama failed to mention.
He did mention the “hope” that he’ll be conducting “a free and fair election” some time, “without interference.”
I notice both Obama and Karzai refer to the war as having lasted 10 years, when it has in fact been more than 11.
WHAT HE’LL BE BRINGING BACK TO AFGHANISTAN: “I’ll be going back to Afghanistan this evening to bring to the Afghan people the news of Afghanistan standing shoulder to shoulder with America as a sovereign, independent country, but in cooperation and in partnership.”
BECAUSE NOTHING PROMOTES FEELINGS OF COMFORT LIKE MASSIVELY ARMED FOREIGN SOLDIERS: Obama: “If we have a follow-on force of any sort past 2014, it has to be at the invitation of the Afghan government and they have to feel comfortable with it.”
PROTECTED: Obama on immunity for US troops in Afghanistan: “That’s how I, as Commander-in-Chief, can make sure that our folks are protected in carrying out very difficult missions.” Protected from what? The consequences of their actions?
Oddly, Karzai expressed complete lack of interest in the number of American troops that will remain in Afghanistan in 2015 and beyond: “That’s not for us to decide. It’s an issue for the United States. Numbers are not going to make a difference to the situation in Afghanistan.”
Has it all been worth it? Obama says absolutely: “we achieved our central goal, which is -- or have come very close to achieving our central goal -- which is to de-capacitate al Qaeda; to dismantle them; to make sure that they can’t attack us again. And everything that we’ve done over the last 10 years from the perspective of the U.S. national security interests have been focused on that aim.” Everything? Everything???
THE POSSIBILITY: Indeed, “there’s no doubt that the possibility of peace and prosperity in Afghanistan today is higher than before we went in.” Way to set the bar really, really high.
THE BEST OF SCENARIOS: “have we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios? Probably not. This is a human enterprise and you fall short of the ideal. Did we achieve our central goal, and have we been able I think to shape a strong relationship with a responsible Afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the United States? We have achieved that goal. We are in the process of achieving that goal.” It’s all about the process.
An Afghan reporter asks what protections women have that they won’t be screwed by the “reconciliation” process. Obama says it’s not up to us, and “The Afghan constitution protects the rights of Afghan women.” Of course it does.