Why Are Deadlines OK for Afghanistan but Not for Libya?

Lisa Curtis /

At yesterday’s joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama ruled out any deadline for ending NATO’s air assault in Libya. “Qadhafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a let-up in the pressure that we are applying,” Obama said. “Ultimately,” he added, “this is going to be a slow, steady process in which we’re able to wear down the regime forces.”

It is troubling that he has refused to express similar resolve in the U.S. and NATO mission to stabilize Afghanistan, where much more is at stake for U.S. national security interests.

The Libyan intervention was undertaken with a humanitarian goal: to protect Libyan civilians. It is a noble cause, but one in which the United States has no vital national interest. The war in Afghanistan, however, is a crucial effort to defeat terrorists and stabilize a region that has served as a major launching pad for terrorist attacks against Americans.

Yet instead of signaling to the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies that the U.S. remains committed to ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists, Obama repeatedly talks about withdrawing U.S. troops according to an arbitrary deadline. (more…)