“At some level, when you make a decision to continue waging a war, losing lives and money, you make a decision that hopefully what you can get in exchange for that is worth it,” says Stephen Biddle, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and a former adviser to retired Gen. David Petraeus.
“At some point it will reach the point where what we get is no longer worth American lives.”
Analysts point out that the bulk of the war is already slated to end in 2014. After that, some American advisers will stay on the ground. But with the spate of “insider attacks” on US forces, the joint Afghan-American patrols that are a key part of the training mission have been suspended, deemed too dangerous to risk American lives.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who commanded the Pentagon’s Iraqi security force training program from 2003 to 2004, says this latest round of green-on-blue killings will prompt tough questions among commanders and within the Pentagon. “You have to ask yourself, what has changed?” says General Eaton, now a senior adviser to the National Security Network think tank.
“Should we accelerate the cessation of combat operations from what the president laid out in the NATO conference in Chicago? These are valid questions, and that’s what [commander of US forces in Afghanistan] John Allen, his chain of command, the secretary of defense – that is precisely what they must be mulling over right now.”
Eaton and others point out that simply ending US involvement in a war is a vast undertaking, and speeding it up comes with its own risks.