If the war in Afghanistan is lost, it will be lost in Washington, not on the battlefield, says FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly

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The Obama administration’s (and America’s) ability to meet those goals will depend in large part on the decisions that President Obama makes in the coming months. If he follows the reported advice of Vice President Biden and others in his administration who favor an early announcement of additional troop withdrawals in 2013, the strategy will be seriously compromised. With the surge forces that the President sent to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 set to return home by the end of this September, our commanders on the ground are already being forced to make do with lower force levels than they would have preferred.

In the coming months, we will see if the gains that have been achieved at great cost in American lives in areas like Helmand and Kandahar hold as we hand over more control to Afghan security forces. The situation in the east along the border with Pakistan remains uncertain and the administration does not appear to have a coherent Pakistan strategy that would enable success in Afghanistan.

These uncertainties have led General John Allen to say that he will not be able to adequately assess required troop levels for 2013 until the end of this year after the surge forces are withdrawn and the fighting season comes to an end.

Over the last three years, the Obama administration has pursued what appears to be a schizophrenic policy toward Afghanistan. Despite his decisions early in his administration to double down and send tens of thousands of additional troops, the President and his top advisors are clearly uncomfortable with a war that they believe to be a political liability.

If the war is lost, it will be lost in Washington, not on the battlefield. Our men and women in uniform can succeed, but only if they are given the resources and time to do so.

- Originally written for a Foreign Affairs symposium

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