Osama bin Laden remained in hiding since 2001 and the Americans just could not get to him. Since his killing, it is only natural to expect that the American population will demand that the Obama administration draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Ahmad notes, adding, “And while the U.S. has virtually acknowledged India as a nuclear-weapons state, as demonstrated by the exception Washington conferred on India by permitting it access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is viewed with great distrust by Washington.”
Osama Killing and America’s Afghan Exit Strategy
In the United States, the immediate fallout of bin Laden’s elimination is related to the urgency to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Washington had never made clear to the American people that its stay in Afghanistan would be long and, perhaps, interminable. Initially, it was understood, but not stated categorically, that the purpose of the U.S. invasion was to eliminate the ruling Taliban and destroy the al-Qaeda network working under Osama bin Laden inside Afghanistan. Taliban was defeated in 2002, but it was allowed to make a comeback in 2005. Since then, after many battles and many deaths, Washington has come to accept that the Taliban cannot be defeated and that some sort of arrangement needs to be worked out to end the indefinite American stay in Afghanistan and the bloodshed that such stay ensures.
Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden remained in hiding since 2001 and the Americans just could not get to him. Since his killing, it is only natural to expect that the American population will demand that the Obama administration draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan. More than a year ago, President Obama had promised that withdrawal of U.S. troops would begin sometime in the summer of 2010 and full withdrawal would take just a few more years.
Prof. Ahmad argues that the United States has evidently balked at taking Islamabad into its confidence with regard to its strategy for a political settlement in Afghanistan, a country that the Pakistani establishment has always considered essential in giving it strategic depth in challenging India.
Presidential promises and loss of American lives are not the only reasons Americans are clamouring for a troop withdrawal. At this point in time, the United States is spending about $10 billion monthly to finance the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Americans ask, how long will Washington be able to borrow vast sums of money in the global bond market solely to pursue less than 100 followers of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? Some point out that this unexplainable expenditure may trigger yet another banking crisis and real estate meltdown in the United States, causing more unemployment and further deterioration of the U.S. economy. Once the United States gets itself engulfed by a full-fledged sovereign debt crisis, there could be no reason why a financially bankrupt U.S. government would continue to throw away $120 billion-plus a year on a war that has become increasingly devoid of any rational purpose.
At the time Osama bin Laden was killed, deliberations on the futility of an expensive war in Afghanistan had already begun. As Robert Haddick stated in Foreign Policy magazine on 3 June, “The war’s popularity inside the United States may be fading as fast as Karzai’s tolerance. The House of Representatives barely rejected — 204 to 215 — an amendment that would have required the administration to establish a faster timeline to exit Afghanistan. Twenty-six Republicans and all but eight Democrats voted for the measure. According to the Washington Post, a group of civilian advisers to Obama will soon make the argument that the financial cost of the Afghanistan war — $113 billion this fiscal year and $107 billion next year — is too much when the goals and the risks of obtaining those goals are considered. To these advisers, spending on Afghanistan operations is a ripe target for fast budget savings.”