Martin C. Evans

Eighteen months or 18 years?

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Karzai (in hat), or Obama (in frustration): Who's prediction will be best on Afghanistan?

I wonder which president, Obama or Karzai, will be closer to right about how long it will be before U.S. troops can leave Afghanistan.

If it is the Afghan president and not the American one, expect Long Island units that have recently returned from war to have to go back again and again and again.

This week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said it would be 15 to 20 years before his country could afford to field the kind of military needed to keep the country from disintegrating into chaos.

“For a number of years, maybe for another 15 to 20 years, Afghanistan would not be able to sustain a force of that nature and capability with its own resources,” Karzai said during a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Bill Gates Dec. 8 in Kabul.

Gates later said he was surprised by Karzai’s estimate.

But if Karzai is right, it will be a minimum of 165 months before U.S. troops would be fully free to leave Afghanistan, according to the most conservative estimate of the guy Afghans “elected” to run the place.

That’s a lot longer than what President Barack Obama implied in a speech two weeks ago before cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, when he said the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 18 months.

A lengthly U.S. involvement increases the likelihood that Long Island-based National Guard and Reserve units, including the 69th Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion,/25th Marine Reserve, will be sent back to the battlefield. The two units returned from combat deployments earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the guy appointed to run the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, indicates he also thinks it may be a long while before American troops come home.

McChrystal told Congress last week that the U.S. must persuade the Taliban U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan for a long time if we are to reverse their momentum there – momentum that has resulted in more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan this year than ever before.

Talk of a long commitment in Afghanistan is not sitting well with top Democrats in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Wisconsin congressman David Obey, who also wields big-time influence as chair of the purse-strings-controlling House Appropriations Committee, are key players who have given voice to a broad unease with the war among Congressional Democrats.

Last year’s Democratic Party surge gained much of its momentum from voter disillusionment with the war.

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