In December 2009 President Barack Obama finally revealed his administration’s long-awaited Afghanistan strategy in a speech delivered at West Point. The pundits and talking heads wasted little time before weighing in on the plan. While many applauded the announcement of a 30,000-troop surge to turn the tide of what had been labeled a “forgotten” war during President George W. Bush’s second term in office, others were dismayed that President Obama also established a timeline. He announced that U.S. troops would begin leaving Afghanistan in July 2011. How could the United States execute an effective counterinsurgency campaign that would ensure the survival of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s regime in only 18 months? Would the enemy simply outwait the United States, in effect “run out the clock,” and then move against Karzai’s government after his American backers left?
So now, here we are 18 months later. What have we accomplished in that time and what might the future hold? In this issue we take a look at the state of play in Afghanistan as we reach the prescribed starting point of the U.S. withdrawal.