New Afghan president wants Obama to 're-examine' 2016 troop withdrawal deadline

A tacit admission by the new Afghanistan president that his security forces are not up to the challenge to fight off the Taliban and his country needs U.S. troops to stay beyond the 2016 deadline for withdrawal set by President Obama.

The Hill:

"If both parties, or, in this case, multiple partners, have done their best to achieve the objectives and progress is very real, then there should be willingness to reexamine a deadline," Ghani told CBS's "60 Minutes.”

"Did you tell President Obama that?" Lara Logan asked.

"President Obama knows me. We don't need … to tell each other," Ghani said during his first U.S. televised interview since becoming the country's president.

Obama had announced plan to withdraw troops from the country by the end of 2016. There are currently about 10,000 troops remaining.

There is a lot more talk, from -- many of the senior leaders I deal with -- on the Afghan Security Forces, about Iraq and Syria and what's going on, and saying, ‘Hey The coalition left Iraq, and a couple years later -- look what happened. Don't let that happen to us here in Afghanistan,’ " U.S. Gen. John Campbell told “60 Minutes.”

“The fundamental difference is that the senior leadership, both on the military side and in the government, want the coalition. They want the U.S. to stay here,” he added.

Campbell said small pockets of al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, adding that leadership is still targeted.

“Are they at a level that they can continue to attack and plan for the United States? We're doing everything we can today to make sure they don't have that capacity,” Campbell said.

“But I think we're going to have to keep continued pressure on that. Once you take that pressure off -- it's only a matter of time before they continue to build that back up,” he added. “So that's why it's so important that we do build upon the Afghan capacity to keep that pressure on. If we get to a point where I think their capability can't do that and they're still a threat to the United States, then I'll make that sure my senior leadership understands that.”

The international coalition has already left Afghanistan with only a few hundred military personnel remaining to help with rebuilding projects.  If Afghanistan is to get any help, it will have to be from the U.S. alone.

The fact is, if Obama acquiesces and cancels the withdrawal, our men could be stuck there for several years, involved in a low-level insurgency where our people will be preferred targets of terrorism and ambushes by the Taliban.  The Afghan security forces are slowly improving, but they are nowhere near ready to go it alone if the Taliban mounts a major attack to seize control of the country.  Only the presence of U.S. troops would deter the Taliban from making such an attack.

Obama will be tempted to allow our troops to stay since he will be leaving office.  He's going to leave his successor several foriegn policy nightmares, so he might figure, why not one more?  In fact, if the Afghan government asks us to stay, we will be duty-bound not to turn our backs on them.

That will probably be the message given to the president by our military commanders on the ground.  Whether he takes their advice is another question.

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