It's a grim morning of news from the Afghan war. While hopes are fading for a peace deal with the Taliban, deadly "insider" attacks threaten to force an early retreat of NATO forces before 2014. We'll start with the toughest pill to swallow.
In today's New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg and Rod Nordland report the cornerstone of the U.S. military's exit strategy in Afghanistan, establishing a peace deal with the Taliban, has been all but written off. "The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart," they report. The hope was that the troops surge in Afghanistan coupled with special forces night raids would force the Taliban into negotiations before 2014. But the Taliban has weathered the brunt of NATO's offensive, leaving little hope for a peace plan. Naturally, it offers Obama critics, who say the president should've never telegraphed a withdrawal date to the Taliban, oxygen for dissent. When asked if there's chance for a last-minute peace deal before 2014, a senior NATO officer said "I don't see it happening the next couple years."
In other news, the head of NATO, secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told The Guardian that deadly insider attacks were discouraging morale to the point that an early retreat date may be in the works. "There's no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence, absolutely," he said. "From now until the end of 2014 you may see adaptation of our presence. Our troops can redeploy, take on other tasks, or even withdraw, or we can reduce the number of foreign troops. From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals or drawdown … If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process." One can certainly understand his observation of morale loss, as the 2,000th American solider died in Afghanistan over the weekend. Regardless, it's sobering to see the already modest withdrawal plans beging to unravel in the country.