Displaying confidence in the American strategy in Afghanistan, Retired General Jack Keane, a well-respected commentator on national security affairs, emphatically stated in an interview with Fox News that reacting to the tragic murder of 16 Afghan civilians by accelerating the withdrawal of U.S. troops would be a mistake, and one that the United States cannot afford.
Despite the recent troubles in Afghanistan, Keane noted military progress that has been made in southern Afghanistan over the last 18 months. This progress, he believes, can be replicated in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani militant network operates. Straying from the proposed timeline would sacrifice progress that has taken place thus far, as well as undercut America’s ability to weaken the deadly Haqqani network. Keane considers the progress in Afghanistan to be encouraging and said scaling down troops prematurely would ultimately undermine hard-fought gains.
Heritage’s Lisa Curtis has also warned against speeding up the pace of troop withdrawals. Getting out of Afghanistan should not be America’s objective, but rather securing the country to prevent the resurgence of a terrorist safe haven, according to Curtis. Recent military progress in Afghanistan must be preserved. Any timeline for withdrawal must be predicated on conditions on the ground and overall strategy.
Ultimately, this strategy depends on the relationship between the U.S. and Afghan leadership. Relations between the two countries have been seriously strained by recent U.S. missteps. Curtis writes that it is essential for the countries to work to restore trust and confidence in the relationship.
While it is tempting to overreact to the shooting incident, Keane said that “to win you have to persevere despite the setbacks.”
Sarah Olver is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm