Of course the military would stay forever, or until victory with honour as they used to say, whichever comes first. But with a presidential election next year and Afghanistan no more under control than ten years ago when the USA & friends invaded, Obama doesn't want that particular stone around his neck. So, against the protests of the Pentagon, Obama is pulling out 30,000 troops by next year. But that will just increase the pressure to remove more troops and embolden the insurgency.
Let's face it, America is dead broke and the ratings agencies have been making noises of concern about their debt situation. And not only them, the American population, the Republicans, Democrats, everybody. The Republicans and Democrats want to make working class Americans pay for the debt with austerity. But a solid majority of Americans in a recent poll are of the opinion that America's foreign wars - and not social programs - are a significant contributor to the deficit in the US. When military spending takes up more than half of the US budget, is it any surprise? What's more, support for the war - recently at a "high" in the polls - is barely scraping 40 percent.
With the Taliban unbowed and staging hundreds of attacks already this year, including a spectacular break-out. With other countries, including Canada, heading for the exits in the face of an unbeatable insurgency. And with the widespread reports that Americans are negotiating directly with the Taliban for an end to the conflict - which will have to include the Taliban in any future government - it's hard not to think that the Afghanistan adventure is slouching towards defeat.
It's true that Obama can point to killing Osama bin Laden but that's cold comfort when the knock on effect of that raid is to push Pakistan deeper into crisis and force the humiliated military and government to play hardball with US supply lines and support, including Pakistani bases now barred for drone raids. The irony is that, if anything, the raid that killed bin Laden, probably weakened the US war effort in Afghanistan by alienating a key ally.
The tragedy is, of course, not that America - and NATO - is heading towards a likely defeat but that by the time it's over, it will have taken more than a decade, tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives to return to the situation as it was before they arrived: poverty, brutality, devastated infrastructure, and a Taliban government.
Barack Obama and Pentagon split on Afghanistan pullout | World news | The Guardian