US President Barrack Obama said on 6 July 2016 that the security situation in Afghanistan’s security remained “precarious” and announced that he will keep US troop levels there at 8,400 through the end of his administration in January 2017, instead of reducing it to 5,500 by the end of this year. For the White House press release, see
In his TV appearance, Professor Higashi explained that Obama, who was sworn in as the US President in 2009, increased the number of troops in Afghanistan during the first few years but he started reducing it in 2011. Because of the security concerns, he needed to decide to keep some level of US forces even after he would leave office.
Analysts estimate that 70 percent of territory in Afghanistan is now controlled by the insurgency, mainly the Taliban. In fact, the US troops still have some engagements in military combat. The recent examples were the military actions to take over Kunduz, the provincial capital in the northern part of the Afghanistan from Taliban, and to kill the Taliban leader Mullah Mansour.
In responding to Mr. Sho Bepput’s question, Professor Higashi pointed out that President Obama was quite consistent that the only way to solve the Afghan conflict would be a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, as he repeated at the announcement. Professor Higashi mentioned that Mr. Obama, however, might have some pressure from the military side that if US would withdraw almost all forces, Afghanistan might be taken over by the Taliban militarily. By keeping some forces in Afghanistan, he employed some leverage on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to have certain space for the political negotiation.
Professor Higashi touched upon the US strategy on Afghanistan over the past 10 years and the near future. He assessed that Mr. Obama was one of the strongest advocates for the political process in Afghanistan in the recent US politics, and the challenges will remain after either Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton takes presidential office.
Mr. Obama took over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq initiated by the Bush Administration. It could one of his achievements that Mr. Obama withdrew almost all of the US forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the huge challenge to support rebuilding the states of both Afghanistan and Iraq still remains for US. Professor Higashi concluded his analysis that it would be necessary to learn how it would be difficult to rebuild a state after being invaded or attacked and to change the regime.