Having dispensed of any pretense that the military is going to start withdrawing in July, NATO officials are now painting for the public a picture of what the Afghan War is going to look like in 2015, 14 years after the occupation began.
The answer, of course, is that so far as anyone in NATO is concerned the war in 2015 will look much the same as the war in 2010, with the pretense of more Afghan “leadership.” NATO will retain leadership in parts of the nation, however, in 2015 and beyond.
The answers came from Mark Sedwill, NATO’s top civilian official in Afghanistan. Sedwell had expressed hope, at the start of 2010, that this year would be the “turning point” for the war. It may well have been, from a death toll perspective, but not in the good way like you’d hope.
Now Sedwell is hoping for a turning point in 2014, where NATO can finally, credibly claim some measure of Afghan government leadership in the war effort. Even this, he admits, is not guaranteed, and he continues to predict more violence going forward.
Most NATO officials are now openly talking about the end of 2014 as a “transition” date, which is expected to be formally cemented in this weekend’s Lisbon Summit. The usually unspoken part of this is that 2014 is a best case scenario, and even that doesn’t necessarily involve any real withdrawal of forces or anything close to an exit strategy.
Sedwell is being unusually honest among officials in so comfortably talking about the grim state NATO “hopes” the war will be in another 4-5 years from now. Even this, bad as it is, rests on NATO’s always overly optimistic viewpoint, but at least gives us a glimpse of how little consideration is being given for an end of the war.