Last Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke to Reuters about Afghanistan, saying, âÄúI hope the Taliban thinks [July 2011 is] an end date, because itâÄôs not. They are going to be very surprised come September, October, when most American forces are still there.âÄù Americans may be very surprised as well.
When President Barack Obama announced the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July of 2011, he was purposefully hazy about exactly what that meant. The unclear deadline was supposed to placate his liberal base while not giving the insurgents in Afghanistan a clear date to rally around as the end of U.S. presence.
That deadline recently got simultaneously clearer and hazier. Republicans, Democrats and top U.S. military officers have started to throw around 2014 as the date to transfer security operations to Afghanistan, a year originally suggested by AfghanistanâÄôs president.
The decision not to quickly and immediately withdraw troops in July 2011 makes military sense; insurgents in Afghanistan are still active and have been using the July 2011 deadline as a recruiting tool, although U.S. forces have had some successes with an aggressive campaign of night raids.
The war in Afghanistan, however, is already the longest war in American history. Obama has tripled the number of American troops there since taking office, and the war is now significantly more expensive and deadly than at any other point in its prosecution.
Now is not the time for the U.S. and NATO to pack their bags immediately and leave Afghanistan, but Americans should be asking themselves:
When will enough be enough?