Yesterday’s deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan should serve as a stark reminder — Afghanistan is slipping away. In January 2009, President Obama inherited an Iraq War that was largely over. Al Qaeda was in full retreat, and the central government had asserted control even over Shiite militias. Afghanistan, after a long period of relative quiet, had grown more dangerous, but the violence hadn’t yet spiraled out of control.
Where are we now? In Iraq, the catastrophe has dominated world headlines, and American-allied forces have been slow to recapture lost territory even with American air support. In Afghanistan — with the exception of occasional spectacular attacks – tragedy has unfolded largely outside the public’s view. Violence has escalated, the Taliban control an increasing number of Afghan districts, and now ISIS even has a presence in the country. In 2008 there were 698 total fatalities from terrorist bombings. By 2011, that number exceeded 1,000. In 2012, it topped 2,000, and last year 2,284 people died by terrorist bombs.
By my count that’s two wars where Obama has squandered significant military advantages and put American on a path to defeat. As for Libya, I’m not sure if that’s a war lost or a war won — for the wrong side.
There are some who would say that the recent record demonstrates that the Iraq and Afghan wars were unwinnable — that we never should have fought. Yet, as I state in my most recent NR cover story, our wars are made far more difficult by the substantial constraints we place on our armed forces. When we freely grant the enemy safe havens and refuse to allow experienced soldiers to take the fight to the enemy, we’re set up for failure. We’re sowing weakness and reaping defeat.