The object lesson for this is right next door in Iraq. Faced with growingly restrictive demands from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the U.S.-led mission packed up and left, leaving behind an only partly completed mission that steadily began to unwind.
Instead of a robust coalition backup presence, ample training and resupply, the Iraqis were left pretty much to their own devices, a course of action that sounded good in the rhetoric of nationalist politicians but proved lethally unworkable in practice.
Since January, according to the U.N., at least 7,157 civilians and 952 members of the Iraqi security forces have been killed. Much of it is a resumption of the Shia-Sunni sectarian violence that U.S. forces largely put an end to in the 2008 “surge.”
The lethal new chaos features the usual indiscriminate bombings of market places, religious festivals and wedding celebrations but increasingly the violence has turned to mass killings done execution-style — 31 men, women and children, each shot three times in the head just the other day.
Ominously, as Shiite lawmaker Muhriq Naji told the Associated Press, “Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are getting stronger while our security forces are getting weaker. Al-Qaida is more easily able to pick the time, the place and the way to kill our people.”
If anything, Afghanistan has a weaker central government, smaller and less well trained security forces and a long and bloody history of tribal warfare, that many local warlords would be only to happy to resume.
Errant U.S. drone strikes have indeed killed innocent Afghans, but the bloodshed is nothing compared to what they would inflict on each other once freed from the constraints of having U.S. and NATO troops present as peacekeepers.
Karzai is repeating the same pattern as al-Maliki and one suspects it will have a similar outcome.