What lies ahead for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq

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What lies ahead for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq

At the end of President Obama's sixth year in office, the commander in chief who once vowed to end America's longest period of war still maintains thousands of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq — conflicts that refuse to conform to neat White House timetables.

The end of this year marks an end to the official combat role for the U.S. in Afghanistan. As 2015 dawns, U.S. troops transition to a training and support role, even as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. And in Iraq, more U.S. troops will be on the way to a war that was supposed to be over, at least as far as the U.S. goes.


Obama long ago recognized, at least privately, that in seeking to extricate American troops from wars abroad, he was not ending those conflicts, only America's involvement in them. But even that goal has proved stubbornly elusive.

Here's a primer on what lies ahead in 2015 for the Pentagon in both places:

Hasn't Obama succeeded in shrinking the U.S. military presence?

Yes. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has carried out a major withdrawal over the last two years, shrinking its troop presence from about 100,000 at the height of the war to 10,800 today. That's the level authorized by the White House through early next spring, when it is due to drop again, to 9,800. All U.S. troops are due to leave by the end of 2016, except a small contingent attached to the U.S. Embassy.


But Iraq has shown how hard it is to follow such timetables. The U.S. pulled all its troops out in December 2011. But last August, Obama announced plans to send about 1,500 troops back when Islamic State militants swept in from Syria and took control of large parts of the country. Obama recently decided to roughly double the U.S. troop level to 3,100. Thousands more are supporting the effort from bases in the region.

What are the troops doing?

A mix of missions. In Afghanistan, they work with military advisors from other countries to help train Afghan security forces, especially the nation's still primitive air force. The goal is to professionalize a force that has shown a capability to fight but remains far from capable of sustaining itself over the long term. Most U.S. troops work at large bases in the country's east and south, not at combat outposts.


Despite White House insistence that the U.S. combat role is over, the troops could be forced to help defend the bases from insurgent attacks. About 4,000 special operations troops will continue to carry out raids against the remnants of Al Qaeda and their supporters. And U.S. forces will have authority to assist the Afghan military with airstrikes, supplies and even ground forces if it is in danger of a major defeat by insurgents.

What about in Iraq?

  • There is no solution for a medieval mindset. We had and lost the opportunity for relatively quick success when we let bin Laden escape from Tora Bora and then invaded Iraq.
The White House has put strict limits on the U.S. role there. No troops are supposed to be in ground combat. Special operations troops are advising Iraqi and Kurdish commanders from joint operations centers, where they coordinate airstrikes against Islamic State positions and convoys. U.S. officers are finalizing plans to begin retraining Iraqi ground forces, many of which collapsed last summer when the militants attacked, or are hindered by sectarian officers, poor equipment and large numbers of so-called ghost soldiers, who are on the payroll but don't show up. U.S. troops also coordinate delivery of U.S.-supplied weapons and equipment.

So the U.S. wants to shift to a support mission and prevent U.S. casualties?

Mostly, yes. But carrying out such a shift isn't likely to go smoothly. Already in Afghanistan, as U.S. troops have withdrawn, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks, even in Kabul, the capital. Afghanistan's new president, Ashraf Ghani, is worried about the ability of his troops to withstand the insurgents next year and is already lobbying U.S. officials to consider slowing down the timetable for withdrawing remaining U.S. forces.

In Iraq, the timetable is more open-ended. U.S. officials warn that American troops may be needed for three years or more to help Iraq regain control of its territory and to keep pressure on Islamic State forces in neighboring Syria.

How does the Pentagon feel about the White House strategy?

Many in uniform are glad to see the costly wars come to an end. On the other hand, some privately complain that Obama's goal of disengaging militarily, and his fondness for withdrawal deadlines, sacrificed many of the gains they fought for in Iraq and risks doing the same in Afghanistan. Having seen Iraq fall back into chaos after U.S troops left, they hope Obama will prove more flexible about keeping forces in Afghanistan if security there remains precarious.

What are the stakes for Obama?

Politically, the White House is hoping that by shrinking the military's mission and presence overseas, the public will give him credit for getting close enough to his goal of ending the wars without disengaging from the national security threats emanating from the region.

But there is another scenario: If the Afghan Taliban shows continuing resurgence, Obama may face growing pressure from his commanders, Afghan officials and Republicans in control of Congress to expand the mission there. The same dynamic could arise in Iraq and Syria, where signs already suggest the U.S.-led airstrikes are reaching the limits of their ability to inflict damage on Islamic State militants.

Before he leaves office in 2017, Obama may face a decision about whether he wants to be remembered as the president who brought the troops home or the one who left too quickly.

What lies ahead for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq - LA Times
 
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#2
What lies ahead for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq

At the end of President Obama's sixth year in office, the commander in chief who once vowed to end America's longest period of war still maintains thousands of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq — conflicts that refuse to conform to neat White House timetables.

The end of this year marks an end to the official combat role for the U.S. in Afghanistan. As 2015 dawns, U.S. troops transition to a training and support role, even as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. And in Iraq, more U.S. troops will be on the way to a war that was supposed to be over, at least as far as the U.S. goes.


Obama long ago recognized, at least privately, that in seeking to extricate American troops from wars abroad, he was not ending those conflicts, only America's involvement in them. But even that goal has proved stubbornly elusive.

Here's a primer on what lies ahead in 2015 for the Pentagon in both places:

Hasn't Obama succeeded in shrinking the U.S. military presence?

Yes. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has carried out a major withdrawal over the last two years, shrinking its troop presence from about 100,000 at the height of the war to 10,800 today. That's the level authorized by the White House through early next spring, when it is due to drop again, to 9,800. All U.S. troops are due to leave by the end of 2016, except a small contingent attached to the U.S. Embassy.


But Iraq has shown how hard it is to follow such timetables. The U.S. pulled all its troops out in December 2011. But last August, Obama announced plans to send about 1,500 troops back when Islamic State militants swept in from Syria and took control of large parts of the country. Obama recently decided to roughly double the U.S. troop level to 3,100. Thousands more are supporting the effort from bases in the region.

What are the troops doing?

A mix of missions. In Afghanistan, they work with military advisors from other countries to help train Afghan security forces, especially the nation's still primitive air force. The goal is to professionalize a force that has shown a capability to fight but remains far from capable of sustaining itself over the long term. Most U.S. troops work at large bases in the country's east and south, not at combat outposts.


Despite White House insistence that the U.S. combat role is over, the troops could be forced to help defend the bases from insurgent attacks. About 4,000 special operations troops will continue to carry out raids against the remnants of Al Qaeda and their supporters. And U.S. forces will have authority to assist the Afghan military with airstrikes, supplies and even ground forces if it is in danger of a major defeat by insurgents.

What about in Iraq?

  • There is no solution for a medieval mindset. We had and lost the opportunity for relatively quick success when we let bin Laden escape from Tora Bora and then invaded Iraq.
The White House has put strict limits on the U.S. role there. No troops are supposed to be in ground combat. Special operations troops are advising Iraqi and Kurdish commanders from joint operations centers, where they coordinate airstrikes against Islamic State positions and convoys. U.S. officers are finalizing plans to begin retraining Iraqi ground forces, many of which collapsed last summer when the militants attacked, or are hindered by sectarian officers, poor equipment and large numbers of so-called ghost soldiers, who are on the payroll but don't show up. U.S. troops also coordinate delivery of U.S.-supplied weapons and equipment.

So the U.S. wants to shift to a support mission and prevent U.S. casualties?

Mostly, yes. But carrying out such a shift isn't likely to go smoothly. Already in Afghanistan, as U.S. troops have withdrawn, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks, even in Kabul, the capital. Afghanistan's new president, Ashraf Ghani, is worried about the ability of his troops to withstand the insurgents next year and is already lobbying U.S. officials to consider slowing down the timetable for withdrawing remaining U.S. forces.

In Iraq, the timetable is more open-ended. U.S. officials warn that American troops may be needed for three years or more to help Iraq regain control of its territory and to keep pressure on Islamic State forces in neighboring Syria.

How does the Pentagon feel about the White House strategy?

Many in uniform are glad to see the costly wars come to an end. On the other hand, some privately complain that Obama's goal of disengaging militarily, and his fondness for withdrawal deadlines, sacrificed many of the gains they fought for in Iraq and risks doing the same in Afghanistan. Having seen Iraq fall back into chaos after U.S troops left, they hope Obama will prove more flexible about keeping forces in Afghanistan if security there remains precarious.

What are the stakes for Obama?

Politically, the White House is hoping that by shrinking the military's mission and presence overseas, the public will give him credit for getting close enough to his goal of ending the wars without disengaging from the national security threats emanating from the region.

But there is another scenario: If the Afghan Taliban shows continuing resurgence, Obama may face growing pressure from his commanders, Afghan officials and Republicans in control of Congress to expand the mission there. The same dynamic could arise in Iraq and Syria, where signs already suggest the U.S.-led airstrikes are reaching the limits of their ability to inflict damage on Islamic State militants.

Before he leaves office in 2017, Obama may face a decision about whether he wants to be remembered as the president who brought the troops home or the one who left too quickly.

What lies ahead for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq - LA Times
It must be more difficult to control the area then they expected. Those countries are not going to back down easy. Colonialism has effected many parts of the world, but the middle east doesn't want any parts of it, and for good reason. Religiously it's just to many differences and as long as religion is in the picture, it's going to be conflict.
 
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It was said that the US would help with the drones and teaching Iraqi troops, but I doubt that it will happen. The first troops are already there and more and more will follow, to fight I am assuming.
 
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It was said that the US would help with the drones and teaching Iraqi troops, but I doubt that it will happen. The first troops are already there and more and more will follow, to fight I am assuming.
I think we will be well into the next presidents first term before we see all the troops home. It's sad that a war like this (or any) has to go on with no real end in sight. The long term effect is going to be another problem all together and for what? This is much deeper than stopping a terrorist movement.
 
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I think that Bush didn't had a clue in what he was getting the US in. Obama pulled the troops home, but now they are back there and as you say there is no end at sight, neither a point in this war.
 
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I think that Bush didn't had a clue in what he was getting the US in. Obama pulled the troops home, but now they are back there and as you say there is no end at sight, neither a point in this war.
This war has been one big mess and I feel bad for the troops and the families. One minute their coming home and the next their being sent back. At what point are we going to get tired of the lies?
 
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Exactly, we have all sort of negative aspects, the troops, the families, the money the US is spending that could be redirected to other areas and the chaos that is being created where the war is happening making the misery of thousands and thousands.
 
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At this point, I doubt we will ever fully pull out of the Middle East. My guess is that the situation will end up like Korea, with us continuing to maintain some sort of presence.
 
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I don't think this is going to work out. In the first place, the conflicts there began as battles of the minds which were won by the people who hated the West. Sending more troops to fight them will only convince the fence-sitters that the extremists are right, that the US wants to kill all of them. We must not forget that the terrorists are not another race apart. They are part and parcel of the general populace. When one of them is killed by US forces, you can be sure that there will be many who are not on the frontline, who have never been labelled as terrorists or even thought of becoming one, who will mourn his death.

I have an idea. How about this? Let's send in books, not bombs. Let's send in teachers, not soldiers. Let's win this war with education, not conflagration. How about that?
 
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[QUOTE="

I have an idea. How about this? Let's send in books, not bombs. Let's send in teachers, not soldiers. Let's win this war with education, not conflagration. How about that?[/QUOTE]

This is actually the best solution! It's still a war, but the attack is silent and less messy. Although I highly doubt the government is up for this because it will surely hurt business.
 
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It's hard to educate someone's entire culture away. Education doesn't reduce violence. If anything, they'd be better equipped to fight us.

Isn't education and technology really the only upperhand we have on them?
 
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Isn't education and technology really the only upperhand we have on them?
And this is how the wars will never end. Why does anyone think that having superior education and technology will save them from annihilation? Are there no lessons to be learned from history? Didn't the Romans have superior education and technology? Didn't the Egyptians have superior education and technology? All empires have fallen. No exceptions. The US empire, in its turn, will fall, too.

What I am suggesting is to soften the fall. When we send books and not bombs, we are sharing our knowledge. When we are gone, as surely we will, our knowledge will live on.
 

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I think it's important to remember the reasons why they went to war in the first place. With every year that passes, the objective must not be lost, else in ten years time, it will just be taken for granted that it's still going on. America want to police the world, but cannot deal with things effectively. The only way to end this is to actively want to end this and I don't think that's the case. So, what is the real objective?
 
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So, what is the real objective?
If you ask me, I would say the objective is bragging rights. Some people just simply love to be known as the biggest man on the block. They just thrive on the feeling of being the one who tell other what to do. Whether there is any tangible benefit is another story. Like when a guy buys a big car, way beyond his needs. He buys it not to use it. He probably has another car already. But he buys a new big car so that he can brag about it. He buys a new big car because no one else in his neighbourhood has one.
 
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I would love to see the troops officially come home from Afghanistan and Iraq, especially seeing so many people who I know and love joining the military recently, though I just don't think that it is going to happen any time soon, and definitely not before President Obama is out of White House. Thankfully for me the only people I know in the military right now are either just joining up and going through basic training, stationed somewhere in the United States for the time being, or stationed somewhere that is not having a ton of violence like Japan.
 

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