During a joint press conference today held by President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, the president announced that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is going to accelerate and that combat operations will end in the spring.
WASHINGTON – President Obama, after meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, said Friday that the United States would be able to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in coming months because of gains made by Afghan security forces. [...]
In a joint statement released before the news conference, Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai extolled the progress made by the Afghan security forces, noting that Afghan troops now take the lead in providing security in 80 percent of the country – a number that will rise to 90 percent by spring, when American and NATO troops are scheduled to move to a purely advisory role.
At that time, the statement said, American soldiers will pull out of patrols in villages, a measure that Mr. Karzai had sought.
During the press conference, President Obama also said that no troops, serving in any role, will remain in the country beyond 2014 if he cannot obtain legal immunity for them. And given that Iraq demanded the authority to prosecute U.S. troops and President Obama refused to give it to them, it seems likely that a similar scenario will play out in Afghanistan.
Based on my own hunch, I believe demanding immunity for U.S. troops, and on the other hand demanding the authority to prosecute them, provides both sides with the political cover needed to have a clean break of the relationship. And I believe that no U.S. troops, not even a minuscule amount, will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for this very reason.
This may transpire differently than it did in Iraq, but I'm not going to get worked up over the idea of a very small number of personnel remaining in the country to serve as advisers.