Just weeks into his first term, President Obama was cheery at the prospect of bringing a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan by backing a plan to lure “moderate” elements of the Taliban to support the U.S.-backed government.
Obama’s new secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was also enthusiastic about the engagement with these “moderates.”
How’s that working out? Not so well. Obama announced today that — contrary to his stated plans — the U.S. will continue its military involvement in Afghanistan past 2016:
BREAKING: Officials: Obama to extend US military role in Afghanistan; 5,500 troops to stay after 2016
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 15, 2015
As veteran White House reporter Ed Henry notes, this contradicts Obama’s repeated claims that he was ending the war in Afghanistan:
Declared it over many times https://t.co/nCG7cRP58a
— Ed Henry (@edhenry) October 15, 2015
With such dismal news, it seems appropriate to recall those heady days more than six-and-a-half years ago when the D.C. foreign policy establishment was aflutter with talk of the administration engaging the “moderate” Taliban. They were cheerleading for the secretary, who was on board with the engagement plan:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday endorsed Afghan plans to hold reconciliation talks with moderate Taliban members.
“We must support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks, not out of conviction but out of desperation,” Clinton said in an address laying out the new U.S. strategy for the region that President Obama announced last week.
She added, “They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda and support the constitution.”
As late as last year, administration officials were still pushing the “moderate” Taliban plan.
Not everyone was enchanted by the plan back in 2009, and these dissenters have of course been proven correct. As the Washington Times editorialized at the time:
The Afghan government believes the talks are going well, and that supportive statements from President Obama have “created enormous optimism.” The negotiations fit neatly into Mr. Obama’s “let’s talk it out” global strategy. The reported U.S. position is that if the Taliban cease fighting, evict al-Qaeda, and promise not to support terrorism in the future, the U.S. and NATO will leave Afghanistan. Call it Anbar Awakening: The Sequel.
The United States assumes only about 5 percent of the Taliban are incorrigibles, and the remaining “reconcilables” can be “peeled off.” Hamid Karzai, himself a former Taliban supporter, defines the moderates as “those who are not affiliated with al-Qaeda” and “who accept the constitution of Afghanistan.” But most of the people who fit that description either joined the political process years ago or were killed by their immoderate brethren.
With today’s announcement, and Hillary Clinton being the presumed Democratic Party presidential candidate for 2016, how are things faring in Afghanistan?
Reminder: 80% of U.S. troop casualties in Afghanistan war occurred under Obama and his rules of engagement
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 15, 2015
Afghan Taliban’s Reach Is Widest Since 2001, U.N. Says http://t.co/FKUvnjn2as
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) October 11, 2015
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) October 10, 2015
— Josh Smith (@joshjonsmith) October 14, 2015
Have you heard about the US taking out a 30 sq mile AQ training camp in Afghanistan?
Not 2001 or 2002. Days ago:http://t.co/sZTctwcHUo
— Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) October 13, 2015
How the hell does al Qaeda operate two camps, one that is 30 sq miles, inside Afghanistan, if it is a spent force?
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) October 13, 2015
— Christian Vanderbrouk (@UrbanAchievr) October 15, 2015
Chalk this foreign policy disaster up there with these other Obama administration ideas:
— Supporting the “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring;
— the push to accept “moderate” al-Qaeda;
Certainly a pattern American voters will be thrilled to see continue for another four years.