2014 Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal May Not Happen

I found it interesting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted at U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline to hand the country back.

“We are fully prepared to have a continuing presence here, assisting the Afghans after 2014,” Gates said while speaking with troops at Bagram Airfield. “I think there is a desire on both sides to have some arrangement.”

Gates arrived in Afghanistan today to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghan officials, and troops.

A large part of the visit seems to be related to the July deadline to begin shifting security responsibility to Afghan forces.

It was also rather interesting that Gates took an opportunity to apologize for a recent misguided airstrike that killed nine children. It’s rare to see an official of his position make this kind of apology.

Even when a helicopter killed two men along the Afghan-Pakistan border and the Pakistani government closed a shipment route, the only apology that I’m aware of came from a U.S. ambassador.

With all that’s happening, it will be interesting where things go. The war is losing support, but then again, that hasn’t stopped the war in Iraq. It is also losing support among NATO allies, yet most of their leaders share a common belief that pulling out too soon could plunge the country into civil war.

Actually, if we learn from history, that’s what happened when the U.S. left Afghanistan to run its course after they overthrew the Soviet-backed Najibullah government in 1992.