Obama Finally Gets One Right on Afghanistan


Once in a blue moon, President Obama actually comes to his senses. Usually, it’s when he’s utterly out of options. But sometimes, maybe, it’s because he actually takes the time to learn from his own mistakes. Either way, it’s refreshing to see him do something that puts the good of America’s interests ahead of his own political legacy. Refreshing and too damn rare.

In any event, Obama announced on Thursday that he was no longer committed to bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. And while this doubtlessly comes as bad news for thousands of military families who have grown weary of repeated deployments, it indicates that Obama might have learned something from his premature withdrawal from Iraq.

“I know many of you have grown weary of this conflict,” Mr. Obama said from the White House. “I’m firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.”

The decision comes at the end of a month-long review of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. Obama’s military advisers have been pressing hard for the president to renounce his earlier timeframe for withdrawal in light of new Taliban territory gains and an under-trained Afghan alliance army. There are also concerns that, without U.S. troops in the region, ISIS and Al Qaeda would be able to increase their Middle Eastern influence.

The president’s new plan is to leave the current force of 9,800 troops in place through most of 2016 and keep at least 5,500 troops in the country beyond the end of his own term in office. That makes the war the next president’s problem, but that was going to be the case no matter what. At least this way, the next president will be able to evaluate the situation from inside the war rather than watch Afghanistan fall to extremists in the first months of his or her tenure.

Alas, even when Obama makes a good decision, he can’t quite shoot for the stars. Already, several experts have criticized his plan at only barely meeting the absolute minimums requested by the military. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “While I am glad President Obama has dropped his plan to abandon the region entirely, if he is truly committed to fighting terrorism and securing a stable Afghanistan, he shouldn’t shortchange what our military commanders have said they need to complete the mission.”

Well, Jeb, we have to take what we can get. Nothing short of a miracle is going to turn this president into a commander-in-chief worthy of the title. Still, it’s encouraging that he’s occasionally able to emerge from his cocoon of idiocy and do something for the country instead of himself. Just…enjoy the moments.

They come around so infrequently.

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