President Obama on Thursday proclaimed to be against endless wars, even as he announced that the US will continue to wage one.
“I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year,” Obama said at a press conference where he also reversed his prior decision to have only military presence at the United States’ embassy by 2016. “I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation,” Obama said. But, he added, “I do not support the idea of endless war.”
When Barack Obama took over the administration of the Afghanistan war — the “good” war, compared to the folly of Iraq — staying the course was never supposed to be the policy. In his first presidential campaign, Obama vowed to put more troops on the ground to beef up the fight and thereby end the conflict entirely. Once in office, Obama initially ordered the troop count to increase to around 100,000. Then, despite a flurry of leaks about military brass wanting to keep a larger presence there, Obama brought the “surge” of soldiers home by the autumn of 2012. As the Afghanistan surge wound down, Obama made clear his objective was to end the war: “By the end of next year,” Obama said in early 2013, “America’s war in Afghanistan will be over.” Obama followed through by declaring an end to “combat operations” at the end of 2014.
Yet nearly 10,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan as trainers in 2015, often on the ground, and in combat roles, carrying out special operations raids against targets and supporting drone assassinations. Those 10,000 troops will now stay in the country for most of Obama’s remaining days in office — and perhaps beyond them.