Analysis

Afghanistan: Positive US Spin Ignores Realities on the Ground
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta meets with Afghan President Harmid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, December 14, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)
December 16, 2011
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
Summary
The U.S. commitment to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 has been accompanied by optimistic rhetoric, but the ability of Afghan security forces to defend against insurgents without NATO is seriously in question and the Taliban is expected to regain its strength not long after the last of the NATO troops pull out. The mission also leaves in its wake a strong resentment toward foreign troops and toward the corrupt government led by President Hamid Karzai. The diminishing U.S. presence in Afghanistan will only highlight deficiencies in Karzai’s government and will challenge Afghan forces as they struggle to maintain order.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States is “winning” in Afghanistan, during his visit to the country this week. He later used more cautious terminology about “making significant progress,” and “going in the right direction.” Panetta made the statements a day after General John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, said that U.S. forces will institute a major shift in operations next year, moving to an advisory role rather than a fighting force to improve the skills of the Afghan army and begin extracting U.S. forces from combat. 

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