NATO pullback heightens doubts about Afghan strategy

NATO’s decision to scale back joint operations with Afghan forces may protect the lives of Western troops increasingly targeted by “insider attacks,” but it raises troubling new questions about President Barack Obama’s strategy to stabilize Afghanistan.

After ramping up Afghan security forces at a breakneck rate to allow for a drawdown of Western troops, NATO is coming to grips with a rash of deadly assaults by Afghan recruits who turn their guns on Western allies. Muslim rage over a film insulting the Prophet Mohammad has further stoked the risk.

The White House and NATO leaders have stressed that the suspension of some mentoring operations announced on Tuesday is only a temporary step, limited in scope, that does not alter America’s withdrawal timeline. It applies to front-line missions involving units smaller than an 800-strong battalion, and even then, there will be exceptions…

But James Dubik, a retired lieutenant general who oversaw the training of Iraq’s security forces, warned that the move would undoubtedly act as a drag on training of Afghan forces, an urgently needed step to prepare them for the time when most NATO combat troops have gone home at the end of 2014…

How much of an impact the restrictions have depends on how long the policy is maintained, he said…

Marine General John Allen, who leads NATO forces in Afghanistan, said last month that about a quarter of the attacks can be blamed on the Taliban, both by direct infiltration of Afghan forces and coercion of Afghan troops to attack their NATO counterparts.

Other attacks are attributed to disputes between Afghan troops and their foreign partners, or chalked up to the violence that comes with the trauma of a decade of war.

And who gets the credit for that?

Bush and Cheney invaded. Obama followed the “guidance” of Pentagon types who said they could wind it down quickly and easily. Now, we all get to see how well that is working out.

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