Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Seeing and Doing in the Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Officially the Pentagon is only preparing a plan for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. There isn’t anything that says it has to carry out the plan in the second half of this year. Some policy analysts are referring to it as a bluff on President Obama’s part. Yet as the military sees itself moving out in all the specific operational detail that such a move requires, the act of seeing it gives the action an impetus that soon becomes hard to avoid. Already military groups in Afghanistan are changing their tactics based on the expectation of a U.S. move within the next year. If later it turns out that the withdrawal is delayed by more than the few months of slack that everyone assumes in such a large plan, there will be resistance to the delay. Bluffing on your own behalf is one thing, if this move is indeed a bluff. Having thousands of people bluff in a coordinated fashion is not such a realistic plan. Bluffing requires a kind of active timing, the ability to change direction quickly, that isn’t easy to pull off when so many people are involved.