Campaign Promises

Departments -> Defense -> Afghanistan

DE-7 The Promise: "As Obama removes our combat brigades from Iraq, he will send at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Status:As a result of an executive order signed by President Obama on 02/19/09, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade assumed its position in Afghanistan on 05/29/09. On 06/20/09, the Army 5th Stryker Brigade departed Fort Lewis, WA for duty in Afghanistan.

This promise was fulfilled.
DE-8 The Promise: "Obama will strengthen the training and equipping of the Afghan army and police and increase Afghan participation in U.S. and NATO missions, so that there is more of an Afghan face on security."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:Authorized 195,000 personnel, the Afghan National Army (ANA) reportedly had 170,000 personnel which included 6,600 members of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) as of 08/16. The Afghan National Police (ANP) has an authorized strength of 157,000, against which approximately 153,000 are assigned.

Generally, progress is inhibited by reports that under the Afghanistan's corrupt and unreliable governments, officers regularly steal the salaries of enlisted men who do not have direct-deposit bank accounts; soldiers sell their coalition-provided clothing and equipment at the local bazaars -- where they can be purchased by the Taliban; and a 25% attrition rate due to desertion is common, with about 20% of the remaining force spaced out on hashish, heroin and other drugs. As a point of reference, "Transparency International" has ranked Afghanistan as the world's third most corrupt country -- after Somalia and Burma.

While superb U.S. military leadership and funding have been made available (cumulative funding for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan was over $700B at the end of FY2016), there's simply not much to show for it. There is apparently no Afghan political will for it to work and clan-based loyalties will likely prevail when coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan after CY2017, much as they have for thousands of years.

It is relatively safe to conclude that neither the ANA nor ANP will be putting an "Afghan face on security" any time soon. According to Lieutenant General John Nicholson before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 01/28/16, the Afghan security forces there are not yet ready to stand on their own after more than a decade of trying to train the ANA and ALP at a cost of more than $70B.

The creation of a new local defense force, the Afghan Local Police (ALP) or "community police" under the Interior Ministry was announced on 07/14/10. This was followed on 07/20/10 by an announcement by President Karzai that Afghanistan would be able to ensure its own security by end-CY2014. That didn't happen. Instead, the Taliban's offensive in mid-CY2016 has shown the insurgents to be bolder and better organized, holding more territory in CY2016 than at any time since CY2001. The primary reason for this setback: weak leadership, lack of professionalism, complacency and corruption throughout the ANDSF, whose members simply aren't crazy about fighting for their pro-American government.

Efforts to strengthen the training and equipping of the Afghan army and police did take place during the Obama Administration, despite the fact that the results as of end-CY2016 were lamentable.

This promise was fulfilled.
DE-9 The Promise: "NATO currently has 39,000 troops in Afghanistan...some countries contributing forces are imposing restrictions on where their troops can operate, tying the hands of commanders on the ground...Obama will work with European allies to end these burdensome restrictions and strengthen NATO as a fighting force."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:As of 12/31/16, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan had approximately 13,332 troops from 39 countries (including 26 of 28 NATO countries - Canada and France are not participating), approximately 6,941 of whom were from the USA.
Fatalities in Afghanistan during President Obama's first and second tours in office were as follows:
- CY2009: 521 ISAF, 317 of whom were U.S.
- CY2010: 711 ISAF, 499 of whom were U.S.
- CY2011: 566 ISAF, 418 of whom were U.S.
- CY2012: 402 ISAF, 310 of whom were U.S.
- CY2013: 161 ISAF, 127 of whom were U.S.
- CY2014: 75 ISAF, 55 of whom were U.S.
- CY2015: 27 ISAF, 22 of whom were U.S.
- CY2016: 16 ISAF, 14 of whom were U.S.

During Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the number of coalition deaths reported as of end-CY2016 stood at 3,486 (2,351 of whom were U.S.), and 20,092 U.S. troops were reported as wounded in action.

The issue was that during OEF, over half of the participating countries continued to impose "national caveats". These caveats dictated what national forces could/could not do in Afghanistan. Some allied troops lacked the equipment necessary to operate in an integrated fashion with other allies; some nations did not allow their troops to be deployed where needed by the ISAF Commander; and some allies did not permit their soldiers to participate in combat operations unless in self-defense.

President Obama continued to be ineffective in influencing the removal of operational restrictions imposed by over half of the OEF participating nations in Afghanistan. This situation was not resolved as coalition engagements in Afghanistan transitioned to withdrawal of forces at the request of the Afghan Government.

This promise was not fulfilled.