A primary disagreement with deadlines in Iraq and Afghanistan has been that it encourages the ‘bad guys’.
“All they have to do,” goes the argument, “is conduct minimal to zero ops and concentrate on recruitment and replenishment. They can wait till the good guys are gone then hit hard.”
I have to ask what they think the good guys would do in that recruitment and replenishment period. The whole point of our sending our forces is to create an environment in which the local government can create and train effective local security AND can do ‘normal’ governance tasks; to grow beyond a desparate organization fighting for legitimacy. From my point of view, the enemy’s total withdrawal from the field of combat for 18 to 24 months beats the heck out of a contested 18-24 months.
Further, recruitment suffers when there’s no basis. For a year and a half to two years it’s “yeah, just you wait.” Meanwhile the guys the population sees are getting stronger and faster, they’re bringing food and roads and economic stability. They’re building bases for security forces and hospitals and, well, they get to act like it’s peace, with the certainty that in 18-24 months it might turn ugly. “Just wait,” says the enemy. “No, we’ll prepare,” is the response.
There’s an additional argument that the local populace will be hesitant to support the government given the inevitable return of the Bad Guys. Note the preceding paragraph, and consider the human tendency of… “What have you done lately?” AQ and the Taliban gained strength not only because of the damage they did to their opponents but because of the good they did to the locals. If they disappear entirely, their good will disappears as well. If the only thing they’re bringing is chaos and destruction and the good guys have had time to make preparations (bases, roads, communications, etc.) that’s going to be a bit of a problem.
Putting it simply, fears of the deadline given the “conditions on the ground” clause are unsupportable. AQ and the Taliban cannot afford to disappear from the field of battle and wait for us to leave. At the same time they can’t afford to make things bad enough we feel it necessary to stay longer.
The fear is foolish.