Early Supporters of Afghan Strategy on the Left Now Say Reducing Military Footprint is Best Option

Recent reports out of Afghanistan show that violence is sky-high, the Taliban are incredibly resilient, and the government in Kabul is so corrupt that its citizens would rather turn to the Taliban than their own government for justice. The growing mountain of evidence illustrating the futility of our endeavor in Afghanistan is now too much to ignore for even some of President Obama’s most vocal supporters of surge. The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the home of pro-counterinsurgency (COIN) thought on the left and the Center for American Progress (CAP), an early political supporter of the President on Afghanistan, are calling for the significant reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.

Speaking of the CAP’s influence on the Obama administration, Michael Scherer of Time magazine remarked, “…not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.” John Podesta, the President of CAP, led Obama’s transition team after he won the presidency. Here is CAP’s call for the reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan: 

U.S. forces should begin repositioning within Afghanistan in January 2011 to reflect a renewed emphasis on stability operations in parts of the north and west. The forces should commence an orderly withdrawal beginning now consistent with providing enough manpower to perform counterterrorism operations and training, as well as to contain insurgent growth. By the end of 2012 the U.S. military should have no more than 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. The United States should aim to reduce its total force to no more than 15,000 troops or less by 2014 at the latest as part of its long-term strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government.

Michelle Flournoy is the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and a potential future Secretary of Defense. Prior to becoming the Deputy Secretary, Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security which has been, up until recently, a die-hard backer of COIN in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Andrew Exum, a CNAS fellow, helped write the army field manual on COIN with Gen. David Petraeus. The manual is the guidebook for soldiers implementing COIN in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a remarkable change of philosophy, recognizing the continuing gamble of U.S. lives and resources to be too great of a risk, CNAS is also calling for the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In a newly released report Exum writes:  

To preserve the security of the United States and its interests throughout the world, we recommend a “Responsible Transition” to a sustainable end game in Afghanistan, specifically…The United States and its allies should begin a phased transition, starting in July 2011, from a large-scale mission employing in excess of 140,000 troops to a more sustainable presence of 25,000-35,000 troops. This enduring U.S. military presence will be sized to both support and enable sustained ANSF combat against the Taliban and maintain relentless U.S. pressure on al Qaeda.

For a summary and full copy of the CAP report, click here.

For a summary and full copy of the CNAS report, click here.