While a brigade of US paratroopers prepares to pull out of Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's plan to hand over security to local forces by 2014, voters back home could well determine if and when remaining US troops follow suit.
They won't be back home in time for the mid-term elections. But in a few days, American paratroopers will be leaving Wardak province where they have spent the last 14 months fighting the Taliban alongside the Afghan army.
“What I do is just help them gain the extra tools they need to be more successful in providing more security,” says Captain Dabashinsky of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
But it's a future that the Afghans have to prepare for without the Americans.
President Obama has pledged troop pull-outs will begin in 2011. This unit's mission is to get their Afghan counterparts ready for the handover.
Colonel Johnson commands about 1,000 men. He knows that the battles he is fighting now are ones of persuasion.
“What we are doing today, we could not have done two years ago,” he says. “So two years from now we'll have even greater progress. And maybe we'll be back.”
But if they do come back it would underline the failure of Obama's policies.
Though the war in Afghanistan is not a key issue in the midterm elections, Washington's foreign policy remains based on successful disengagement from the country, and the Afghan forces being able to take over responsibility for security by 2014.
Today's midterm elections could determine whether Obama will be able to successfully negotiate an exit for American troops on his own terms.
The current objective is for Afghanistan to take over responsibility for security by late 2014, but experts doubt that local security forces will be big enough or sufficiently well trained to shoulder the burden on schedule.
Date created : 2010-11-02