Editorial: Delaying troop pullout in Afghanistan is the correct move


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The defining moment of the 21st century for nearly all Americans came in the ninth month of its first year. Sept. 11, 2001, changed the trajectory of nearly every facet of life in the United States and around the world.

Perhaps the most notable of these was the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Since President Obama took office in 2009, he has often talked about slowly pulling American troops out of the hostile country. Yet this past week, the New York Times reported that the president plans to maintain troop levels through this year.

Despite the desire of most Americans — including the Daily Iowan Editorial Board — to bring home American troops as soon as possible, the board believes that this is the correct move. Because of the obvious need for a maintained U.S. military presence in the region and that this move confirms our commander-in-chief’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, the Editorial Board agrees with the president’s actions.

According to the Times, the president plans to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan to aid with counterterrorism CIA operations and to train Afghan soldiers. That level of troops, under the current plan, would be in place through the end of this year.

The original plan, according to the Times, was that by 2015, Afghan Special Forces would have largely taken over the role of targeting Taliban operatives — a measure that has proven effective in controlling the insurgency.

However, as the article explains, even these Special Forces are still heavily reliant on their American counterparts.

The reality is that the situation in southern Asia and the Middle East has become more dynamic than officials once anticipated. With the rise of ISIS and the apparent resurgence of terrorist activity, removing U.S. troops would prove far too detrimental to progress.

Obama’s ability to react to things in recent years in Afghanistan have not proceeded exactly as anticipated should be viewed as positive by people on all sides of the debate. A commander-in-chief who reacts to a given situation as it is (as opposed to as it was at the outset) is no doubt valuable.

Of course, this move by the president is the center of much debate between Republicans and Democrats. According to CNN, Republicans may call Obama out on using the troops in Afghanistan as a political move rather than on legitimate battlefield conditions.

Obama’s political motives would likely be based in wanting to keep Afghani President Ashraf Ghani Amadzai at the helm. Given that he requested a greater U.S. troop presence, some Republicans have not taken to these actions so kindly.

Yet the truth of the matter is that even if Obama’s motives are somewhat politically driven, the politics merely support the continued diminishing of terrorist activity in the region.

As Scott Smith of the U.S. Institute of Peace puts it, according to CNN, “There is a very strong bipartisan consensus in Washington and on the Hill that it may be worth reconsidering this decision [to stay committed to ending the war immediately].”

As the length of the U.S. war in Afghanistan approaches 14 years, the restlessness of Americans and Afghanis alike is palpable. But to pull out before the country is stable may serve only to destroy those 14 years of work and sacrificed American lives.

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