Last week, President Barack Obama announced his intention to slow the final stages of the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Combined with new rules of engagement that allow U.S. forces to engage more easily with the Taliban, the move ensures that the longest war in American history will continue after his presidency comes to an end in 6 months.
Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would leave 8,400 troops stationed in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency, rather than the previously planned 5,500, was hardly unexpected. The military has been pushing to extend the mission for several months now, and leaks from the White House and the Pentagon suggested that the president was receptive to the idea.
But there’s another reason why we shouldn’t be surprised: The Obama White House has never had a clear strategy for Afghanistan other than to continue to put military pressure on the Taliban and muddle through. Nearly seven years ago, when the White House decided to move forward with an approach in Afghanistan that ignored the need for a political settlement, it made it practically inevitable that the U.S. presence there would continue indefinitely.