One of the main platforms of candidate Barack Obama linked specifically with the hard left base of today's Democrat Party - ending the War on Terror. The primary focus was on the military operations inside of Iraq - to stabilize that country after the removal of the odious Saddam Hussein as its dictator.
After gaining control of Congress in the 2006 midterms, and through the end of President Bush's term, IIRC, Congress held some 42 or 44 votes to stop funding the US forces in Iraq and begin their withdrawal back home. The pace of these efforts only increased as President Bush decided the proper response to the increasing violence in Iraq was not surrender, but a surge of forces combined with counter-insurgency tactics and taking the fight to the enemy. The left was nearly apoplectic in their opposition to the surge. To their chagrin, the surge worked. Iraq stabilized significantly, and a treaty was developed that laid the ground work for smooth transition from US forces to Iraqi forces...with both sides knowing that if conditions changed, negotiations could take place to maintain some active US forces to assist the Iraqi's stay stabilized.
Throughout this, candidate Obama talked about Afghanistan as being the 'good war' - the 'legitimate' war because of the Taliban's direct assistance to al-Qaeda which facilitated their 9/11 attack on the United States. He even rattled the sabre when it came to the double game that Pakistan was playing - one portion of the government working and cooperating with the US, the other working and cooperating with the Taliban. During this, he threatened to take the war to Pakistan.
Once in the White House, President Obama was faced with some real dilemmas. From the information he now saw, he had a better handle on the challenges in the region and the reality of the threats - but also had these jaded by his embracement of the hard left ideology. He's not addressed aspects of the dichotomy of his positions - anti-war / the need for a surge in Afghanistan; the pledge to close Gitmo / the need to keep Gitmo; Bush as the 'warmonger' / Obama's expansion of the drone wars and strikes. Since his principles seem to stand against what he knows he needs to do to gain re-election / protect the US and our interests - he's resorted to making his decisions based, in my opinion, on politics.
Political expediency, political cover, and what he can trade-off seem to be the main factors of his decision process.
The Bush era treaty with Iraq permits the US to withdraw its troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 - pleasing his base going into re-election year. Why renegotiate to stay longer and take a political hit? The original date in the treaty was the end of 2011, so if Iraq explodes, it's Bush's fault for going in, not winning it, and for negotiating the treaty that had a premature withdrawal date.
Even though he promised to close Gitmo in one year, it's more important to keep it functioning to provide protection - and for the most part, his base is giving him a break on this.
As Afghanistan looked like it was failing, the military asked for a surge like Iraq. His base protested this as they did the Iraqi surge. So, the President gave them a limited surge - in size and time frame - while his base and the Democrat Congress looked the other way.
Unable to reach out and understand Pakistan, the President, like Kennedy did with Special Forces, became enthralled with drones - and expanded significantly the use of drones and drone attacks on terrorist targets in Pakistan. Once again, his left base gave him a pass - knowing that in the long run, Obama would do there what he did in Iraq - and what the US did to Vietnam in 1975 (also under the desires of a liberal Democrat Congress).
Thus, Afghanistan and Pakistan stumbled along. When given the chance to target Osama Bin Laden in a Pakistani city - he took it. His gamble - that this would not be another Desert One, but provide him with the political key to be able to say, 'I got Bin Laden'.
This is the key to the change in the strategy of the President and his progressive advisers. With the killing of Bin Laden, in their mind, 9/11 has been avenged. Bin Laden is dead, so the War on Terror is no longer needed.
Combine this with the challenges in Afghanistan - and the President now has the last tool he can use to declare victory and pull out of what they see is a quagmire in Afghanistan. The US has little real assistance in Afghanistan beyond a few of our closest allies like Britain, Canada, Australia, and other countries that are actively trying to prevent the Taliban resurgence and help the people of Afghanistan. NATO forces there, beyond the member countries named above has been effectively useless. Present on the basis of a Chapter V declaration under the NATO treaty, an attack on one is an attack on all, the rules of engagement and limitations set by the other countries, like France and Germany, leave them to providing primarily training.
The corruption and tribal nature of Afghanistan also complicates the challenges there. The near feudal approach to 'real politics' in the country create challenges around building a functional representative government. The people's lack of education - dependence on the local imam for information also work in many cases against building a functional representative government.
But during the surge, during the use of tactics that involve reaching out to the people of Afghanistan and not only helping them come out of the 7th century in so many ways, but also staying with them to prevent the ability of the Taliban to threaten them started to pay some dividends. Real victory is still years off, but many thought a corner was turned there as well thanks to the efforts of the US military and its closest allies.
Unfortunately, with victory perhaps in grasp, came the political decision that the US, and other countries, aren't going to continue to invest their treasure in a country or region that the progressive left really doesn't care about. France, tiring of terror attacks on its forces by infiltrators / terrorists they were trying to train, announced that it would withdraw at the end of 2013. Other countries started to follow as well.
The vision now, on the basis of the success gained in 2008-11, is to declare victory and leave. For the Taliban, their live just got a whole lot easier. They just have to play the game, help the Obama Administration declare 'victory' or more precisely 'peace', and then they are free to return to power when the foreigners leave.
The Taliban now knows that time frame...it's the end of 2013 for the US as well. They are now willing to enter in 'peace talks' with the US - making demands like getting the release of 5 senior officials being held in Gitmo as well as others to help them plan for post 2013 - and can play the game for the next 2 years. Anti-Taliban Afghans now know that the foreign forces will not be protecting them, so they are now quite ready to support the Taliban (the long term strong horse) and make nice with the Taliban. They've lived with the 7th century rulers once before and can return to doing so in the future. Much of what many know is what the imam tells them - that to gain entrance to paradise they need to be faithful to Allah - and the Taliban are Allah's soldiers, his jihadists, and only ask for fealty to them and Allah.
The President, and his fellow progressives, have made a very short sighted decision - for them and for many others in the region and around the world. They believe that if they stop fighting the jihad, the jihad will stop.
It's the same mindset that many of them in their youth adopted over the Vietnam conflict - with the main difference being the ideology being promoted by the enemy as the solution for the region was also the same ideology that many progressives believed is best for the US and the West. They helped press for a 'peace with honor' in the Paris Peace Accords. They knew about the promises for assistance to South Vietnam and Cambodia in the event the North reignited the conflict...and were prepared from day 1 to do all they could to ignore and break those promises. The region wasn't worth, in their mind, any additional American treasure - in lives or war materials. They had a progressive revolution to do in the US - the attempt in the mid-late 1970's to 'fundamentally change' the country.
When the North relaunched its military conquest, the Democrats in Congress refused to honor the promises we made. While the South was able to withstand the attack for the first month, it then collapsed as it ran out of materials. By the end of April 1975, the North Vietnamese had captured Saigon - ending the Vietnam War. It also started a bloodbath that led to 1 million to 1.5 million South Vietnamese dead, another 1.5 to 2 million in 're-education camps', and about 1 million 'boat people' fleeing the country. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge killed off 1/3rd of the countries population.
The 'compassionate' progressive left wasn't all that upset...the dead weren't Americans..and they knew that the USSR and PRC had also killed over 100 million at that stage of the 20th century in the name of the political left ideology. That carnage rarely is addressed by the leftists who write op-eds admiring the government of the PRC.
Progressive political correctness prevents us from even identifying our enemy as jihadists. They are not acting in response to our actions, but acting to promote their own agenda and strategic interests. The policies of the President going forward are going to be as ill-advised for the future as the policies practiced in Britain in the 1930's by Baldwin and Chamberlain. We cannot engage those who declare themselves our enemies, call them our enemies, or now apparently find it worth our effort to combat and defeat them.
All that evil needs to succeed is for the good to do nothing. We're taking this and making it worse because we are demonstrating we don't have the will to fight. This will only encourage our enemies as we fail to learn from history again.
I fear the same will happen in Afghanistan after 2013. The Taliban will regain control. All the improvements done that don't support the needs of the Islamists will be destroyed. For most of the people, they will return to a 7th century mindset and existence. We'll see women executed in public spaces for violations of Sharia law. Thousands if not more will die. The jihad will continue even with a surrender in Afghanistan. al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist jihadist groups will use it as a base to train and plan attacks - and today, there is no part of the world that they cannot hit.