The Washington Post reports that Leon “Coast-to-coast” Panetta heard a very optimistic report from officials in Kabul today in regards to our situation in Afghanistan. Marine Major General Lawrence Nicholson, the head of operations for the coalition in Afghanistan told him that US forces are doing a “minimum” of the work for Afghans – that US forces are “unpartnering” from operations.
The assessment Nicholson offered, however, is far rosier than the one that U.S. officials have provided recently. They have been citing the resilience of the Taliban and the shortcomings of the Afghan government and military.
Just one of 23 Afghan army brigades is able to operate on its own without air or other military support from the United States or NATO, according to a Pentagon report to Congress that was released Monday.
Nicholson said that although U.S. commanders have made “disingenuous” claims in the past about the extent to which Afghans were acting as equal partners in joint missions, officials now see the Afghan army as ready to operate largely on its own, albeit with key logistical and financial support from NATO.
Imagine that. The situation has changed 180 degrees from the report released to Congress on Monday. So, I guess it’s getting close to time for rushing to exit. Of course, since the generals got the firm word that all combat forces will be withdrawn in two years, that assumption was highlighted by the election results, what else would they be briefing now?
And, oh, the Washington Times reports that after Panetta left Ali Al Salem Air Base before getting the briefing in Kabul, a suicide bomber took out a US soldier and two Afghans at the base gate. A punctuation mark for the report, I suppose.
The Taliban are a small but resilient force, even after 11 years of fighting a vastly larger U.S.-led international force. They managed to send a dramatic reminder Thursday, claiming credit for the suicide bombing that killed three and wounded 17 near an entrance to Kandahar Air Field, the largest Western base in southern Afghanistan. Panetta and his traveling party had left the air field about two hours before the attack.
Of course, nothing can reverse the withdrawal schedule at this point. Remember that we promised the South Vietnamese that we’d return combat troops there if the North Vietnamese invaded the south. Instead we got the iconic pictures of a frantic evacuation of the embassy and equipment being shoved into the ocean.