Winding Down the Wars

The last combat troops will leave Afghanistan later this year, closing out the nation’s longest war. And though the United States will continue to support a “unified Afghanistan,” President Obama made it clear in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that no US troops will remain in country—in any capacity—unless the Afghan government signs a bilateral security agreement. Obama acknowledged that “danger remains,” despite more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting terrorist activity in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali. He said the US will “support the opposition in Syria, while “strengthening our defenses, and combat(ing) new threats like cyberattacks” at home. He also noted the US “will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific.” However, he emphasized that, “America must move off a permanent war footing.” On Iran, Obama praised “American diplomacy” for halting “the progress of Iran’s nuclear program…for the first time in a decade.” He acknowledged that strict economic sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, but once again urged Congress to give the diplomatic process time to work before attempting to implement more sanctions. If negotiations fail, Obama said, “I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.” But, if they succeed, “then we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.”