The goals for the U.S. and its NATO allies in Afghanistan have been significantly scaled down, as leaders of the alliance meeting in a Chicago summit this weekend acknowledge the utter failure of the war.
The new goals have abandoned lofty notions like democracy and are settling on making sure Afghanistan has security forces that will prevent an al-Qaeda safe haven on behalf of the U.S. But even that may be unattainable and simply costs too much.
The Obama administration is asking the up to 60 nations and organizations attending this weekend’s conference to pitch in and help pick up the tab for the over $4 billion in aid Afghanistan will need annually. After all, America still will have to pick up most of the tab for all the JSOC teams conducting night raids and drone attacks into Pakistan which will continue long after the 2014 “withdrawal,” until about 2024.
The current Afghan National Security Force is at about 345,000 – an army of 195,000 and a police force of almost 150,000 – just shy of the goal of 352,000. But they are not sufficient: they consistently get into gun battles with their American and NATO counterparts and less than 1 percent of them can operate independently, without NATO guidance.
So NATO is expected to endorse a smaller force, with some suggesting numbers as low as 228,500. Even that will be difficult for the West to cover financially.
Michael O’Hanlon, a hawkish senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested that everybody just wants out of the failure of a war in Afghanistan, saying NATO can “not even worry about whether [they] lose the war,” and doesn’t want to waste anymore money on it.