I’d love to see the U.S. end ALL roles in Afghanistan by the end of next week, but this at least gives us a light at the end of the tunnel.
In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.
There are currently 90,000 troops left in Afghanistan, with a batch of 22,000 due home by the fall. There will be 68,000 left, scheduled to be completely out by the end of 2014.
Mr. Panetta offered no details of what stepping back from combat would mean, saying only that the troops would move into an “advise-and-assist” role to Afghanistan’s security forces. Such definitions are typically murky, particularly in a country like Afghanistan, where American forces are spread widely among small bases across the desert, farmland and mountains, and where the native security forces have a mixed record of success at best.
At last count, American forces have suffered 1,889 killed in action in Afghanistan a number that rises to 2,882 when you include other allied forces, and untold hundreds of thousands if you include Afghans themselves (remember them?). We lost 25 soldiers in January of this year alone.
Dragging this thing out for over another year (and more) is going to get a lot more good people killed. Not that anyone cares much anymore.