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2014 “Zero Option” is Real, Because Obama Beat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

“The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of ‘X’ number of troops in Afghanistan,” said Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser. “We have an objective of making sure there is no safe haven for al-Qaida in Afghanistan and making sure that the Afghan government has a security force that is sufficient to ensure the stability of the Afghan government.” [Washington Post]

ON A conference call earlier this week, which I was on, Ben Rhodes made it clear that the Obama administration is ready to face reality in Afghanistan even if the Washington media elite is not. The call was in advance of President Karzai’s visit to the White House today, where troop withdrawal in 2014 will be discussed.

No troops in Afghanistan after 2014, the so-called “zero option,” has nothing to do with “losing” Afghanistan, which couldn’t be won by anyone but the Afghans. What the U.S. did “win” was removing Al Qaeda as a force in that country, something Obama pledged to do and did in his first term.

The Taliban is an indigenous group, many of whom are violent thugs, but there is no getting rid of them, only finding a way to appeal to their self-interest.

None of this is playing well with the right over at the National Review, who remains in denial of what the 21st century means to U.S. military intervention and engagement, which must finally change with the times.

Quoting Ruth Marcus, seen in the video above with Andrea Mitchell, the National Review and Marcus represent the Washington elite who maintains facing reality means “‘we give up,’ ‘we quit,’ ‘the progress that we made is untenable and we might as well not even try to keep it.’”

The 21st century requires more strategic thinking than guns and bombs. It’s not just about drones and Special Forces, though we should continue to challenge the effectiveness of drone policy. It’s that U.S. effectiveness around the world will be in partnerships that must be led by economic development focus and creating the opportunity to link up public institutions and private enterprise in a new way to manifest lasting diplomatic cooperation.

Little known or credit has been given to Secretary Hillary Clinton, who has begun this enterprising diplomatic shift, making it easier for U.S. businesses to engage around the world, which helps everyone. Clinton talks about this aspect of diplomacy regularly and it’s part of her entire theory of diplomatic engagement in the modern era.

The companion to this is continually stressing the importance of involving women in the economic and political future of developing nations, which cannot be stable without them.

President Obama’s consideration of removing all troops from Afghanistan is a fundamental shift in U.S. thinking on foreign policy. It includes acknowledging that no matter when we get out there will be carnage in our wake, because no one can do for Afghanistan what the people and their leaders won’t do for themselves.

The U.S. will continue to fund the security apparatus in that country, which depends on our engagement, but not U.S. troops. It’s also required to make any economic advancement possible, which is the only hope of any developing nation.

This piece has been updated.

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4 Responses to 2014 “Zero Option” is Real, Because Obama Beat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

  1. mjsmith January 11, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    “Little known or credit has been given to Secretary Hillary Clinton, who has begun this enterprising diplomatic shift, making it easier for U.S. businesses to engage around the world, which helps everyone. Clinton talks about this aspect of diplomacy regularly and it’s part of her entire theory of diplomatic engagement in the modern era.”

    I was thinking about this when I read your story on Hilary Clinton yesterday. I read an excellent article on a State Dept. blog – http://tinyurl.com/beezgtd

    “Women, Technology, and International Development
    Posted by Ann Mei Chang / January 10, 2013

    “Over the past decade, the international development community has recognized that investing in women is the most direct and effective way to promote economic growth, peace, and prosperity. Around the world, and more recently in developing countries, we have seen the transformative impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly mobile phones and the Internet….”

    “This week, the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and UN Women are convening the first International Forum on Women, ICT, and Development (WICTAD) in Washington DC, where we are bringing together leaders across five continents to explore this fast emerging field. Putting women and technology together has the potential to be one of the highest-leverage opportunities to address the world’s development challenges. …”

  2. Jane Austen January 11, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    “The U.S. will continue to fund the security apparatus in that country, which depends on our engagement, but not U.S. troops. It’s also required to make any economic advancement possible, which is the only hope of any developing nation.” Taylor Marsh

    Interesting that you should write this right after I spoke to my cousin who returned from Afghanistan in October after a year’s tour. My cousin is a man of few words but on Afghanistan he had much to say. He said exactly the same thing. He added a caveat. The women are an integral part of the development of the country and we must push Karzai et al to make sure they are educated and given a place in Afghanistan society, the Taliban be damned. Without the women. Afghanistan has no hope for the future. Jim was impressed with the Afghani men he met who wanted their daughters to be educated and to have a better life than what they have now. So maybe there is hope.

    • Taylor Marsh January 11, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks for sharing that about your cousin.

      As I write regularly, no country can be stable without incorporating the women into the politics and economic development.

  3. Solo January 11, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Very well written piece Taylor! Loved it!

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong