We’re currently in the middle of the process of pulling all of our troops out of Syria. Or most of them. Or moving them to Iraq, even though the Iraquis are saying they can’t stay there. Or something. In any event, it’s a tactical shift in strategy that seemed to catch many in our own military by surprise.
With that in mind, the Pentagon is reportedly making sure that another abrupt policy shift doesn’t catch them with their pants down again. A plan is being developed for the rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan in case President Trump decides to fire off a tweet saying we’re leaving that country also. (NBC News)
The Pentagon recently began drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in case President Donald Trump surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria, three current and former defense officials said.
The contingency planning is ongoing, officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
One of the officials called it “prudent planning.”
To be clear, the President hasn’t issued any such order yet. (With “yet” being the operative word.) Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell went on the record saying that the DoD “does not have orders to draw down troops in Afghanistan and our mission has not changed.”
But the real question is whether or not the President ordered the preparation of such contingency plans or if the Pentagon is doing this on their own initiative. If Trump instructed them to do that then there’s no problem. It’s his decision if and when we pull out of that nearly two-decade-old war and it would be nice to have a plan in place to do so with the least amount of chaos possible if we’re going to do it. (Representing a far better model than what we’re seeing in Syria and Iraq right now.)
But if this was an internal Pentagon decision, that could be a worrying signal. Has the snap decision on withdrawing from Syria shaken the Pentagon’s confidence in the President and his willingness to listen to his military advisers? It’s true that our military regularly reviews all possible scenarios and tries to plan for any eventuality so they can intelligently advise the President. And that might be what’s happening here.
But the other possibility is that the Joint Chiefs are breaking out in a cold sweat over the possibility that the phone is going to ring any day now and Trump will tell them to get everyone out before the primary voting starts in January. There are currently more than 8,000 U.S. troops in that country and moving them all out safely is going to present some serious logistical challenges.
We also need to make sure that all of the translators and other Afghani people who worked directly for us are taken care of in advance, something we’ve been woefully slow in doing. We need to be prepared for the inevitable fact that the Taliban is going to take over and wipe out the current American-backed government and probably begin slaughtering everyone who cooperated with us over the past seventeen years.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t leave Afghanistan. I actually agree with the President on that score. The original mission is accomplished and we are never going to forcibly create a lasting democracy there without American muscle propping it up. Sooner or later we have to get out. But if we’re not smart about it we could easily turn that situation into a massively larger debacle than it already is. And it should definitely happen in a more deliberate fashion than just seeing another presidential tweet after a rally.