Opinion

President Obama threw Afghanistan under the bus with Taliban trade for Bowe Bergdahl

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Afghanistan,National Security,Foreign Policy,Charles Hoskinson,Taliban,Bowe Bergdahl

Secretary of State John Kerry's worldview is usually so out of touch with reality that I rarely agree with him.

But on Sunday he said something that actually made sense — and goes a long way toward explaining why President Obama thought he made a good deal trading five high-ranking Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

In an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union," Kerry said it was "a lot of baloney" that the freed prisoners would return to killing Americans, because "our combat role in Afghanistan is over."

He's right -- by the time the five Taliban detainees are able to return to Afghanistan after their one-year "cooling off" period in Qatar, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will have dwindled down to barely a few thousand advisers and counterterrorism forces, with those scheduled to leave by the end of 2016.

The five aren't likely to be a direct threat to U.S. interests, because they are more likely to focus on a more immediate concern: Retaking their country from the U.S.-backed government.

And their release -- combined with President Obama's plan to wind down U.S. involvement -- add up to Afghanistan being thrown under the bus in a vain attempt to give the White House some positive publicity after being hammered over corruption and incompetence at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Afghans are terrified, because they can pretty much tell that Obama couldn't care less what happens to their country after U.S. troops leave. Officials in Kabul are furious over the deal negotiated behind their backs. And while Obama seems more interested in pushing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government to negotiate peace, the freed Taliban are vowing to get back into the fight.

And the release of the five Taliban leaders isn't the only ominous sign that the movement may yet have a role in Afghanistan's future. On Friday, leading presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah narrowly escaped assassination by two bombs that killed six people, including a police officer and one of his bodyguards.

In a previous life, Abdullah was a top aide to Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated by al Qaeda on Sept. 9, 2001. That date wasn't a coincidence — Massoud's assassination was Osama bin Laden's prelude to the deadly attacks in the United States two days later, and was meant to clear the way for the Taliban to gain full control over Afghanistan.

Bin Laden didn't expect the U.S. to react as forcefully as it did at the time. He assumed the U.S. would not have the will to fight. He was wrong then, but Obama seems determined to prove him right in the long run.

The 2008 election? That's ancient history. Who even remembers Democrats saying Afghanistan was "the real war" which George W. Bush "took his eye off of" by invading Iraq?

That rhetoric served its purpose and helped put Obama in the White House. Now no longer useful, it's been sent down the memory hole. And for the past five-and-a-half years, politics — not military strategy — has driven Obama's decisions on Afghan troop levels.

Meanwhile, there's lots of angst over the handful of U.S. soldiers killed in the days following Bergdahl's capture in June 2009. Many believe their deaths were a direct result of Bergdahl's actions.

But Obama's policy toward Afghanistan raises the question of why any of the more than 2,000 Americans who died there -- the vast majority since he became president -- and are still dying, if the result is a return to the pre-Sept. 11 reality. The most recent named casualty was Pfc. Matthew H. Walker, 20, of Hillsboro, Mo., who died June 5 from wounds sustained in combat in eastern Paktika province.

As Kerry once said: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

History has come full circle, as now Afghans are wondering if there will be space for them on the last helicopter off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Of course, that's not how Obama tells it. He's proud of the deal he made and insists he has no regrets.

"This is what happens at the end of wars," he declared during a June 3 news conference in Warsaw. "That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that's been true of every combat situation -- that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back."

Except Washington, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt ended their wars by winning them — not by walking away with the outcome still in doubt.

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