The 33,000 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan to tamp down the Taliban attacks nearly two years ago have now left the country, but a new wave of deadly insider attacks and a reassessment of how NATO troops partner with Afghans have raised questions about how well the military strategy is working.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced on Friday the troops had come out, declaring the surge had accomplished its mission.
But after a tumultuous week in Afghanistan that saw commanders put limits on when NATO and Afghan troops can patrol together, Panetta also acknowledged there will still be difficult days ahead.
“The surge did accomplish it objectives of reversing the Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increasing the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces,” Panetta told reporters at a press conference at the Government House here where he was meeting with New Zealand leaders.
He said the re-deployment of the 33,000 troops was a “very important milestone” and that the U.S. is on track to accomplish its goals in Afghanistan. The withdrawal, which was completed on schedule, still leaves close to 100,000 NATO troops there, including 68,000 Americans.
Panetta’s success mantra, however, is called into question by the decision earlier this week that, at least temporarily, NATO operations with small-sized Afghan units are no longer routine, and will require the approval of the regional commander. . .