(Photo Courtsey of Zimbio)
Among the deceased in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery are the 541 soldiers who were killed during the nineteen months that General John R. Allen was the Senior Commander in Afghanistan. Prior to his retirement earlier this week, Allen reflected on a recent trip to Section 60 where he claimed he saw, “…a young widow with her children at a funeral. At a grave nearby, another family had set up lawn chairs to which birthday balloons were taped. At yet another grave, a young soldier was crying inconsolably.” General Allen went on to say, “That is the price we have paid to deliver this campaign to the point it is today.”
General Allen reviewed his tour with President Obama and told Obama that in his mind, the Afghan campaign is on track. Allen said that American and allied forces “were making the transition from a combat role to a support role and had closed more than 500 bases.”
As noted by Michael Gordon in his New York Times article (link below), one of the most important uncertainties remaining for the future of Afghanistan is related to how many foreign troops will be kept in Afghanistan after 2014, when Afghans are supposed to assume total responsibility for their national security. General Allen noted that one way of determining the level of this uncertainty is via the election in Afghanistan set for 2014. According to Allen, “…the outcome of that election will be how the international community will have judged all that we have done. It will be the means by which the Afghan people judge whether democracy can really take root in this country.”
I was touched by General Allen’s reflection on the war in Afghanistan. Everyone knows the extent of the sacrifices that have been made, but it is comforting for the former Senior Commander in Afghanistan to expressly confirm that the work of the U.S. and Allied Forces has been worth while.
What do you think about Allen’s comments? How outcome determinative will the election of 2014 be for the future of Afghanistan? How much will/should the outcome of the 2014 election affect the military placements/withdrawals of the international community in Afghanistan?