At 8:00 PM on June 22nd, President Obama made the much-anticipated announcement that by next summer all 30,000 of the “surge” troops would be brought home. The drawdown of tens of thousands troops certainly signals the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan, but it also heralds a new era in the fight against extremism.
Take for instance a particularly telling quote from President Obama’s speech:
“We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength,” the president said. “Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.”
In the last decade, Pakistan’s profile in the fight against terror has only increased. Its importance in fighting extremism cannot be swept under the rug, nor can American and Pakistani shared objectives in rooting out terrorists be exaggerated.
Afghans and Pakistanis must not think the US is leaving them again, as they often say regarding the US actions post-Cold War. Rather, the strategy must be different, and for this everyone must come to the table with the same priority: to eradicate terrorism. An eternal optimist, I cannot help but hope leaders make decisions to cooperate in the right ways. We should take this opportunity to form on-the-ground strategies to combat terrorism, and make this a priority transcending political parties.
The rabid anti-Americanism in our media depends heavily on the idea of Americans as “invaders.” By calling 30,000 troops back, President Obama has made it clear he wants Afghans to build their own country and their own future (don’t hold your breath for the media to point that out, though). That is what America must do for herself as well, he said. As Americans and Afghans are responsible for their own nations, so are we. Our shared goals make us allies, and that is the most crucial point of all.