At its summit meeting Friday, David Brunnstrom at Reuters is reporting, NATO will approve a four-year withdrawal of most of the 150,000 troops it has deployed in Afghanistan. One hundred thousand of those are American. The plan is going forward even though many analysts say the war is going badly and there will still be, in the words of NATO's senior civilian representative in Kabul, Mark Sedwill, "eye-watering levels of violence by Western standards."
The plan is to turn over all security duties to the Afghanistan government in 2014 despite widespread views that no way will there be enough Afghan troops ready and able to do so, no way will the poverty-stricken country be able pay for its military and police forces, and no way will the insurgency be under control by then.
Meanwhile, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell called 2014 "an aspirational goal," but neither a deadline for full Afghan control nor total U.S. military withdrawal:
"The goal is to have Afghan security forces in the lead over the preponderance of the country," by the end of 2014, but those forces might not have the lead role everywhere, Morrell said.
"That would be the hope, that's what we would shoot for," Morrell said.
"It does not mean that all U.S. or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date. There may very well be the need for forces to remain in country albeit hopefully in smaller numbers."
None of this is likely to surprise anyone who has followed the Afghan War even cursorily. In his December 1 speech on Afghanistan last year, President Obama offered a starting date of July 2011 for bringing troops home but intentionally left out any mention of when the process would be completed. Since then, even that 2011 date has softened. More to the point, Gen. David Petraeus, who co-wrote the Army's counter-insurgency manual and now leads in Afghanistan, has been saying for years that the war might take another decade. He repeated that prediction in September.
Little has changed in the past year since the President gave his speech except the body-count for Americans has risen and we're now spending at least $100 billion annually to prosecute the war. The U.S. partner is a man who retained office in an unfair election and who regularly exchanges sharp public criticisms with the Americans who prop up his regime. The country is deeply corrupt all the way to the top. Warlords control many regions. Despite stepped-up drug raids, 90 percent of the world's opium supply is still grown in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army remains understrength and plagued with desertion and defection. The police force is viewed with suspicion and contempt by the Afghan people. The insurgency has not become less robust or innovative. Reconstruction funds are badly spent. And Osama bin Laden is still at large, apparently cranking out audio tapes when the mood strikes him.
What promise is there that the situation will be much improved in 2014 or, as Gen. Petraeus would have it, 2020? How long will this imperial charade go on before a critical mass of Americans say Enough Already!