Obama's war in Afghanistan and at home

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President Obama.
President Obama offers condolences for Afghan civilian deaths. Photo: REUTERS

For President Obama, 2014 cannot come fast enough. That is the proposed date for the end of the US combat mission in Afghanistan.

The final withdrawal of American forces - the end of this country's longest war - must now seem like a mirage for the White House: tantalising and always just out of reach.

60 per cent of Americans say the war is not worth it and over half want to pull out even if it leaves a security vacuum. In other words, Americans want it over. They want to nation-build at home instead.

The massacre over the weekend is the latest disaster to strike US strategy. It comes just as the Koran burnings scandal was beginning to fade. And it is certain to lead to another drop in popular support for the war in the US and within Congress.

Protests in Afghanistan after reports that copies of the Koran were burned in an incinerator at Bagram airbase
Protests in Afghanistan after reports that copies of the Koran were burned in an incinerator at Bagram airbase Credit: ITV News

Politically, the President is not yet under siege. Democrats are giving him the benefit of the doubt on ending the war. And Republicans tend to criticise him for leaving too quickly.

But there is still an acute risk for the President. This is Obama's war. He didn't begin it, but he did agree to the much-debated surge. Iraq was always Bush's war; but Obama owns the Afghan operation.

If it spirals out of control, if this latest horrifying incident triggers chaos within Afghanistan, then President Obama will come under mounting pressure to pull troops out more rapidly than planned.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

– President Obama, 2009

No wonder White House strategists and ordinary Americans alike must despair at the behaviour of psychopathic soldiers and rogue units.

And the President must be making a silent plea: Can there please be a period of tranquility and stability now to allow me to meet the critical 2014 exit date?