Columnist George Will today calls for the near-total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, writing:
[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.
Will’s column is not a huge surprise — he’s been offering previews on ABC’s “This Week.” His assessment matters because of his status as a conservative icon, although, as a traditional conservative rather than a neocon, he was never as gung-ho about war in the Middle East as, say, William Kristol.
Giving Will’s views even more resonance is an especially bleak assessment by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan, who is calling for a far greater commitment of U.S. forces.
President Obama faces an incredibly difficult dilemma. He campaigned on a platform of shifting resources from Iraq to the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that the move was necessary to deny Al Qaeda a refuge. Yet that’s a dubious proposition, given that Al Qaeda could move anywhere. Indeed, the only reason it’s in Afghanistan is because it was chased out of Sudan.
But before you say we should let Afghanistan go, remember that Pakistan is unstable and armed with nuclear weapons.
Is Will right? I don’t know. I do know that if Obama can meet American security needs without putting American troops in harm’s way, then he should do so as quickly as possible.