US troops in Afghanistan will end “most” combat operations this spring, US President Barack Obama and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have agreed.
American forces are expected to switch to a support role, slightly earlier than originally scheduled, as Afghan troops take the security lead.
The two leaders also backed the holding of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar.
Most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are due to leave in 2014.
“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission - training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Mr Obama said in remarks at the White House on Friday, as Mr Karzai stood alongside.
More: US Troops Will End ‘Most’ Afghanistan Combat This Spring
The facts are here. Many conservatives are going to try to paint the drone war as bad or somehow cowardly, or gasp! Liberal! But the reality is that the drone war in Pakistan has been highly effective. Old Guard Movement conservatives will change the subject when you point that out because they favor real war, large armies and navies, instead of preparing for the wars that we really might have to fight in the future.
They will talk of aerial bombardments, but does it really matter if the pilot is over the target or remotely piloting somewhere near Las Vegas as long as the bomb hits the mark, as long as metal lands in bad guy?
Drone warfare allows you to fight small conflicts with very specific opponents who might not belong to a nation effectively. If you do that well enough, big wars might not come. Drone wars directly against our specific enemies aren’t cowardly, they can be effective at defeating evil before it metastasizes.
When all is said and done, we do need to maintain a healthy defense posture, but at the same time we need to be able to fight our foes directly, immediately, and effectively. Drones give us those abilities. So when the Neocons come at you with that “drone bad, big war MANLY!” talk, just head for the bar instead because life’s too short for another decade of ground war in Asia.
Since 2004, the US has been conducting a covert program to target and kill al Qaeda and Taliban commanders based in Pakistan’s lawless northwest. The program has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states.
The charts below look at the following: 1) the number of US airstrikes inside Pakistan per year; 2) civilian casualties vs. Taliban/al Qaeda casualties; 3) the distribution of strikes over time by tribal agencies; 4) the overall distribution of strikes, by tribal agencies; 5) the distribution of strikes over time by territories targeted; 6) the overall distribution of strikes, by territories targeted; and 7) the number of high value targets killed in territories managed by individual Taliban commanders.
The data is obtained from press reports from the Pakistani press (Daily Times, Dawn, Geo News, The News, and other outlets), as well as wire reports (AFP, Reuters, etc.), as well as reporting from The Long War Journal. Given the Taliban’s control of the areas where strikes occur, and a dearth of reporters in those areas, the exact numbers for casualties are difficult to know.
The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.
Top military and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and NATO allies met Wednesday to finalize the combat handover program and a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.
At the same time, the nations that have prosecuted a 10-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency are reassuring nervous Afghans they will not be left to fend for themselves.
The competing messages aimed at different audiences are both challenged by current events in Afghanistan, where insurgents staged an impressive, coordinated attack last weekend that struck at the heart of the U.S.-backed government and international enclave in Kabul while Taliban leaders boycott peace talks the U.S. sees as the key to a safe exit.