In the end, President Obama was forced to listen to his generals — not his political instincts — on Afghanistan troop levels, and he decided to split the difference.
Mr. Obama is keeping 5,500 troops in Afghanistan beyond his presidency, about half the strength recommended by his top general in-country. It marks the sixth time he has rejected the advice of a ground commander on the force size in the long Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Military experts call that streak unprecedented for a commander in chief.
The battlefield facts delivered to the White House by Army Gen. John Campbell, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and other generals:
• The Taliban mounted a ferocious offensive in the 2015 “fighting season” that took a heavy casualty toll on the shaky Afghan National Security Forces.
• Those forces still lack competent leaders to win decisive battles without American troops to guide them.
• A new enemy has emerged, the ultraviolent Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in a province next door to Kabul, the Afghan capital. This confronted the elected government with new security threats, especially the terrorist army’s trademark vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.
“He still does not listen to his combat field general, who wanted the current force to remain as is,” Mr. Keane said. “Quite unprecedented, this is the sixth time President Obama has not listened to a field commander recommendation on force levels for troops in combat.”
The six times: Mr. Obama rejected a recommendation from Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, chief of U.S. Central Command, to keep about 20,000 troops in Iraq; at five transition points in Afghanistan, he approved troop numbers below those urged by commanders.
Still, Mr. Obama did compromise on troops and infrastructure instead of ordering the complete withdrawal he had wanted.
Full article: Obama ignores generals’ advice on troop levels for unprecedented sixth time (The Washington Times)