Monday, December 22nd, 2014

The Obameter

End the war in Afghanistan in 2014

"President Obama responsibly ended the war in Iraq and will end the war in Afghanistan in 2014."


Obama announces plan to end combat operations this year

President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan over Memorial Day weekend to thank the American troops stationed there. He also told them that "by the end of this year, the transition will be complete and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security, and our combat mission will be over."

In an announcement from the White House Rose Garden on May 27, Obama affirmed his plan to formally conclude the combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"This year we will bring America's longest war to a responsible end," he said.

That would fulfill the campaign pledge that Obama made on the trail during his 2012 re-election campaign.

It doesn't mean, however, that the United States will be pulling out of the country completely. There are currently 32,000 troops in Afghanistan; military commanders recommend leaving 10,000 troops after the end of combat operations.

Obama laid out a timeline for withdrawing troops over the next two years. By the beginning of 2015, about 9,800 troops would be stationed around Afghanistan. That number will reduce by half over the following year, and by the end of 2016, the military will serve as a normal embassy presence in Kabul, similar to what is now in Iraq.  

"Our objectives are clear," said Obama. "Disrupting threats posed by al-Qaida, supporting Afghan security forces, and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own."

There's a hurdle to cross, though: This withdrawal schedule will only occur if Obama and Afghanistan's new president -- to be elected in two weeks -- sign a bilateral agreement allowing for transition process.

Obama visited Afghanistan in 2012, when he was unsuccessful in reaching a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama is now hoping he can work with a new president following the election on June 14. The two final candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have both indicated they would promptly sign the agreement after taking office.

If the bilateral security agreement is not signed, all U.S. troops would abruptly leave at the end of this year, which could mean a chaotic transition for Afghan security forces.

On May 28, Obama delivered the commencement address at West Point military academy where he placed his plans for Afghanistan in the context of broader foreign policy.

Sustaining the progress made in Afghanistan depends on the ability of Afghans to independently defend themselves, said Obama.

Obama also called on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion. The fund will pay for efforts to train and equip more partner countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia so they can also defend themselves against terrorism.

Overall, Obama has said he intends to keep his promise to end the war in Afghanistan in 2014. But the final outcome is contingent on the signing of a new security agreement. We're waiting to see the results of Obama's plans before we issue a final rating, so we leave this promise at In the Works.


New York Times, Obama Makes Surprise Trip to Afghanistan, May 25, 2014

The White House, Remarks by the President to the Troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014

The White House, Statement by the President on Afghanistan, May 27, 2014

CNN, Obama to Cut Troops, says Afghanistan 'will not be a perfect place,' May 27, 2014

The White House, Remarks by the President in the State of the Union Address, Feb. 12, 2013

New York Times, U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016, May 27, 2014

The Guardian, Hamid Karzai Refuses to Sign US-Afghan Security Pact, Nov. 24, 2013

Associated Press, Afghan Candidates Differ in Style Not Substance, May 15, 2014

The White House, Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony, May 28, 2014


Making plans for Afghanistan exit at the end of 2014

There was a lot of talk of 2014 when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Afghanistan recently.  That's the date President Barack Obama has set for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces.

But much remains to be worked out. The United States and Afghanistan intend to reach an agreement on how many troops would remain, to train the Afghan military and for counterterrorism. Meanwhile, the people of Afghanistan go to the polls in April 2014 to elect a new president.

At a press conference in Kabul with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on March 25, Kerry acknowledged there was much to be done but said things were heading in the right direction

"I believe that the security of Afghanistan is growing and will grow over the course of the next two years, and I have confidence that in the bilateral security agreement we will have a full understanding of exactly how that will occur,” Kerry said.

Later in his trip, Kerry heard Afghan women entrepreneurs who said they feared the U.S. withdrawal would bring more instability and corruption for their country, according to a report from the New York Times.

Obama has said some troops will remain in 2015 and afterwards, but he hasn't set a number. In his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, Obama said he intended to bring 34,000 troops back home over the next year.

"While it is too soon to make decisions about the number of forces that could remain in Afghanistan after 2014, any presence would be at the invitation of the Afghan Government and focused on two distinct missions: training, advising and equipping Afghan forces, and continued counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda and their affiliates,” Obama said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also emphasized the 2014 deadline in conversations with troops on March 8 in a visit to Afghanistan.

"We are still at war, and many of you will continue to experience the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle,” Hagel said. "But the goal we have established – to have Afghans assume full responsibility for security by the end of 2014 – is clear and achievable.”

Obama and his administration are warning that the next two years are difficult. But as far as messaging, they're clearly emphasizing the 2014 deadline. We rate this promise In the Works.


U.S. State Department, Remarks With President Hamid Karzai After Their Meeting, March 25, 2013

The White House, Remarks by the President in the State of the Union Address, Feb. 12, 2013

U.S. Defense Department, Secretary Issues Message to ISAF Personnel During First Official Trip to Afghanistan, March 8, 2013

New York Times, Kerry Hears Afghan Fears From Women in Business, March 26, 2013

Council on Foreign Relations, Why is the United States still in Afghanistan?, accessed March 29, 2013

The Weekly Standard, A better Afghanistan will require a better president, by Max Boot, April 1, 2013