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Commentary – in Afghanistan, ending “combat mission” doesn’t mean ending combat

My latest commentary over at the National Journal security blog tackles Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent suggestion that we formally end the U.S. “combat mission” in Afghanistan in 2013, a year before the deadline to (more or less) withdraw our forces:

The end of the “combat mission” doesn’t mean the end of combat. As long as we have troops in a country at war — or civilian personnel for that matter — those troops will be a target, no matter what you call the mission. That’s particularly true here because our troops will transition from “combat” to a so-called “advise and assist” mission. Effective advisors don’t just hang out at safe training bases and wave “bye-bye” to their students march off to battle, they accompany them into combat…..

My brief comment draws on a much more in-depth story I wrote for National Journal based on interviews with U.S. advisors about what it really takes to train the Afghans to “take the lead” themselves, available here.

Click here for the full post in context of the ongoing conversation — but you’ll have to come back here to comment, as the NJ blog doesn’t allow you to make them.

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