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Ending the US War in Afghanistan? It Depends on the Meaning of the Word ‘War’

 

It is amazing to watch politicians trying to weasel their way around their promises. President Obama is providing us with a good illustration of the art.

During the latest presidential campaign and in the final televised debates, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were unequivocal in asserting that the US would be leaving Afghanistan and ending the war in that country at the end of 2014--a goal most Americans profoundly want. Biden, in a heated debate with his Republican opponent Paul Ryan, said the US would “absolutely” be “out” of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Obama, a week later, said, “By 2014, this process of transition will be complete and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

I’m reminded of President Clinton, a lawyer who, when pressed under oath by a special prosecutor hounding him over the details of whether he had had sex with a young White House intern, said that the answer hinged on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

This past weekend, it was reported that Obama and the generals at the Pentagon are planning on keeping at least 10,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan indefinitely after that 2014 deadline for ending the war and withdrawing from that war-torn land.

Just to make it clear what we’re talking about here, 10,000 troops would represent an army half the size of the entire military of either the Netherlands or Denmark, two countries which currently have troops assigned to the NATO forces posted in Afghanistan as allies in the 12-year-long US war there.

US military 'trainers' deplaning in El Salvador during that country's civil war in 1982US military 'trainers' deplaning in El Salvador during that country's civil war in 1982

 

The notion that these 10,000 post-2014 soldiers would just be “training” the Afghan military is simply absurd. Parris Island, the famed boot camp in South Carolina for the US Marine Corps, which boasts what probably is the toughest training program of any of the branches of the US military, churns out 17,000 new Marines a year with a training unit of 600 uniformed personnel. That’s one trainer per 170 recruits. At that rate, the 10,000 US “trainers” in Afghanistan could be putting 1.7 million new recruits for the Afghan army through their paces each year! Even allowing for the typical top-heaviness of the US military, if only a third of those 10,000 “trainers” were actually drill sergeants and their staff, we’re talking about a training force capable of producing over 500,000 new Afghan soldiers per year! But Afghanistan’s army today, which the US claims is already largely trained and ready to protect the country, has only a total of some 200,000 active duty soldiers altogether.

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