Friday, February 03, 2012

Change in Afghanistan combat role?

This is encouraging news. The Obama Administration is announcing that the US combat role in Afghanistan will be ending in 2013, earlier than previously projected. It's not a complete withdrawal. And, of course, the decision can be reversed. But this is still real progress, and a result in significant part of public opposition to the war and the peace movement, to which the Occupy movement also contributed in an important way.

This is a report from Alyona Minkovski of The Alyona Show, MSM: US Wars go Off the Record YouTube date 02/02/2012:

David Cloud's report, U.S. and allies plan to give Afghanistan forces lead role in 2013 Los Angeles Times 02/01/2012, suggests that pressure from NATO allies also played a significant role:

By announcing a specific timetable, U.S. officials are hoping to head off a push by allies to pull out their forces more quickly. Public support for the war is falling in many countries, and with their economies struggling, governments are under pressure to trim their defense budgets.

The top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, said in December that he was planning such a shift, but Panetta's comment Wednesday on his way to a NATO meeting in Brussels marked the first time a senior U.S. official had provided a timetable.
But Anna Mulrine suggests in the Christian Science Monitor that the actual role for US troops may not change very much with this announcement (US troops in Afghanistan: How big is shift from 'combat' to 'assistance'? 02/02/2012):

The move away from a “combat role” into, as Mr. [Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta explained it, an “advise and assist role” is replete with some murky military definitions.

For some time, Afghan forces have been “in the lead” for security in some provinces throughout the country. For US troops this still means providing plenty of help, analysts note. US soldiers and Marines come to the aid of Afghan forces in battle and continue to supply water, transportation, and other vital supplies.

Panetta explained that this transition will often be a matter of formality. “It’s still a pretty robust role that we’ll be engaged in,” he said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be kind of the formal combat role that we are now, but it clearly is going to be a role where we are going to be providing a great deal of support and assistance to the Afghan Army.”

He added, “Look, it doesn’t mean that – you know, we’re not – we’re not going to be combat-ready.”

US troops will have to continue to call on this combat-readiness in a country that remains in violent turmoil.

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