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Will “rush for the exit” be Afghanistan’s cliché for 2012?

March 13, 2012

Not rushing anywhere...

Suggesting more of a crawl than a rush, my completely un-scientific look through the internet at the term “rush for the exit”.  The term started to emerge in and around 2006-2007 but has really gained momentum this year:

13 Mar 2012
Obama said there should not be a “rush to the exits” for U.S. forces who have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 and that the drawdown must be carried out in a responsible way.
7 Mar 2012
Nato commanders and political leaders have repeatedly stressed there will be no “rush for the exit” and that everything is being done to ensure Afghans are ready to assume full responsibility for security in 2014.
3 Mar 2012
Fears of a rush for the exit only increase the risk of a civil war as different stakeholders prepare for the inevitable

9 Jun 2011
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO defence ministers had pledged “no rush to the exit” at a meeting in Brussels.  He added: “I feel confident that the American decision will be based on the actual security situation on the ground and no decision will be taken that will have a negative impact on the security.”
23 Sep 2010
Gen. David Petraeus has told The Times of London that Mr. Obama’s July 2011 deadline to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces in the country is, “not a date when we rush for the exit and reach for the light switch to turn it out before leaving the room.”
9 Sep 2009
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will say he is concerned the public debate on Afghanistan “has started to go in the wrong direction”.
“We must stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary, and we will stay as long as necessary. Let no one think that a run for the exits is an option. It is not.”
17 Oct 2008
New York Times editorial: Don’t rush for the exit
KABUL, Afghanistan — The situation in Afghanistan in 2008 resembles that of the late 1980s, when the former Soviet leaders started looking for an exit.  Today, a number of Western diplomats and NATO generals are doing the same thing.
12 July 2007
The Economist: NATO in Afghanistan
No rush for the exit, yet
But an orderly queue is forming
25 Aug 2006
Canada can’t realistically hope its policy will be the deciding factor in the outcome. At most, Canada’s actions and arguments might help steel NATO’s collective will to stay on — or start a rush to the exit doors.

But I suspect the momentum is speeding up and most western nations with troops deployed will spend a lot of time this year denying this.  President Obama said this yesterday:

“It’s time. It’s been a decade, and, frankly, now that we’ve gotten (Osama) bin Laden, now that we’ve weakened al Qaeda, we’re in a stronger position to transition than we would have been two or three years ago,”

It echoes what Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper said in September 2008: ‘You have to put an end date on these things.’. He added that while Canada’s military leaders have not acknowledged it publicly, ‘a decade of war is enough.’

The media manoeuvrings this year will around the definitions and dates of “transition”, “withdrawal” and “lead responsibility”.

Joshua Foust at Registan has a wry look at one of my favourite subjects – the history of the expression “turning point” (or tipping?) in post 2001 Afghanistan.  I did something similar in 2008:

…assessments suggest that we are at the critical and decisive point in Afghanistan’s development in which it can either move forwards or fall back. The Presidential elections in 2004 and the Parliamentary elections in 2005 were heralded as crucial turning points. In 2007, the then UN Special Representative to Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, said, after noting that 2006 and 2007 were both previously claimed as decisive years, quoted the current ISAF commander as saying that that 2008 will be the decisive year.  In February 2007, the Senlis Council said that southern Afghanistan was at a ‘tipping point’.  In February 2008 they then stated that: ‘2008 is a pivotal year in the development of the Afghan state: the situation has reached a classic decision point.’.  The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, and the new UN Special Representative, Kai Eide, also look to be falling into this trap (Moon: ‘We are at a critical juncture in our efforts in Afghanistan’ and Eide: ‘I’m not saying that the next six months are decisive, but they’re very important. … It’s a window of opportunity.’)

Next week, a look at “failure is not an option”… 😉

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