We’re scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of this year – but we may stay longer. We’re supposed to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 – but we may stay indefinitely. To me, deciding whether to stay beyond these withdrawal dates means thinking through what we’ve accomplished in these two long wars and what we can still accomplish, if much of anything.
So, on Thursday let’s talk about what we’ve achieved in Iraq and Afghanistan and what’s still achievable. Yes, yes. By all accounts, the Iraq war was a catastrophic mistake, and the costs – in lives lost and damaged, in dollars, and to our national interests — have been high almost beyond measure. And, Afghanistan has been long and frustrating, too. However, we have learned some lessons in the process and even have some concrete accomplishments in return for the sorrow.
I’ll open the meeting by explaining:
- Obama’s strategy: What goals we’re still trying to achieve and the current withdrawal schedules;
- Some of the consensus lessons learned from all this, including some hard lessons learned about American politics (to me, they are as important as the military and strategic lessons from the conflicts themselves).
I’d like to limit the rehashing of the original Iraq war debate. Don’t misunderstand. I just read yet another account of it and it still makes my blood boil. But, if we want to game out future withdrawal – and inform any future decisions to do the same type of thing! – then we have to focus on lessons learned based on what we did accomplish and what we never could. Not on the madness of 2003 itself. I think we would all agree that History has spoken on that episode.
- [UPDATE: A must read on how to decide when to leave Afghanistan.]
Timeline of wars:
- The best summary I’ve seen is not on-line yet. I’ll summarize it on Thursday, and you’ll be amazed.
- Short version: 6,000+ US deaths in both wars, over 30,000 allied (inc. Iraqi and Afghan troops) killed. Over 500,000 US veterans have filed for disabilty!
Troop levels (source):
- Iraq: All US troops to be withdrawn by end of 2011, although Iraqi government may request that hundreds or even thousands remain.
- Afghanistan: By summer 2012 one-third of the 100,000 US troops will leave. Total withdrawal planned by end of 2014.
This should be a good one! Hope to see everybody there.