Ever since he decided to provide fewer "surge troops" than requested by his hand-picked battlefield commander and announced an arbitrary "timetable for withdrawal" during a speech in December 2009, the president's rhetoric has been devoid of words about "winning," "defeating the Taliban" or even "peace and security for the Afghan people." Gone, too, is any attempt at comity with Karzai. And while Obama repeatedly reminds us that "we got Osama bin Laden," his efforts to repair relations with neighboring Pakistan have ground to a halt.
This week, in the aftermath of multiple reversals on the ground, the president reiterated that he still intends to withdraw 23,000 of the 91,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Afghanistan before our presidential election -- and before the "fighting season" comes to an end. In Kabul, Panetta renewed the administration's commitment to "bringing home" all of the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops by 2014.
Taliban leaders immediately announced that they were suspending long-awaited "peace and reconciliation talks" in Qatar because of the "shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans." What they didn't say is what everyone already knows: The O-Team is getting out of Afghanistan no matter what's happening on the battlefield. All the Taliban have to do is wait until we're gone.
Obama still claims he is "confident that we can continue the work of meeting our objectives" and "accomplish the mission" while implementing his "exit strategy." But then he says his goal is to "responsibly wind down this war" and "bring our troops home." This isn't a "strategy," and it's not a valid reason to send young Americans into harm's way in one of the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. The commander in chief we hired nearly four years ago still hasn't learned that the only "responsible" way to end a war is to win it.
On the day Taliban leaders announced they were pulling out of any further talks, I was visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. While I was there, the mother of a severely wounded Marine said to me, "I hope my son's sacrifice was not in vain." I share her hope. We all should -- even our ambivalent commander in chief.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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