by Trevor Timm
Nov. 24, 2014
The Guardian


Afghanistan, Syria, wherever Isis goes: it’s clear that Obama wants to slot in someone who’s a lot more gung-ho about war. Photo illustration: DonkeyHotey / Flickr via Creative Commons

Chuck Hagel resigned as US defense secretary on Monday morning, and the Obama administration must be ecstatic that the Washington press is agrip with the perennial Beltway question: “Was he fired or did he quit?!”

After yet another weekend of news that the administration is expanding its war footing in the Middle East in secret, the White House yet again is exercising its power to avoid talking about what should be on the tip of the tongue of everyone: How are more troops going to solve a problem that 13 years of war have only made worse?

With Hagel’s resignation, hardly anyone is talking about the alarming story published Friday night by the New York Times, reporting that President Obama has ordered – in secret – that troops continue the Afghanistan War at least through 2015 … after announcing to the public months ago that combat operations would stop at the end of this year. Obama made his “This year we will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end” statement in the White House Rose Garden, on television, six months ago. The extension of the Afghan war was reportedly executed by a classified order.

Meanwhile, Obama was up there smiling next to Hagel on Monday, talking about how “reluctant” he is to see him go. The American president, like the one before him, is apparently reluctant to be upfront with the public about war.

On Sunday, the New York Times also reported that the new Afghan president quietly lifted the ban on so-called “night raids,” clearing the way for them to once again be conducted in conjunction with American special forces. (Continuing its penchant for News Speak, the US military has reportedly renamed them “night operations” in light of how much they are hated by Afghans.)

While Hagel’s departure has already been framed around the Obama administration needing a “change” after the midterm elections, or as a scapegoat for the administration’s response to the Islamic State (Isis), but that just raises more questions than answers: Why does the Obama administration think removing the only Republican from its cabinet will satisfy an electorate that just voted in more Republicans? And how is firing Chuck Hagel supposed to be a magic wand for a faltering campaign to destroy Isis?

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