NYT Miscounts Obama’s Afghan Troops Numbers

US special forces in Afghanistan (cc photo: US Navy/Clayton Weis)

Barack Obama has increased, not lowered, the number of US troops in Afghanistan (cc photo: US Navy/Clayton Weis).

The New York Times published an editorial on Sunday (11/24/13) that offered a puzzling history of the US war in Afghanistan:

From his first campaign for the White House, President Obama has vowed to end more than a decade of war, bring the troops home and put America on a less militaristic footing. He has reduced the forces in Afghanistan from about 100,000 in 2010 to about 47,000 today and has promised that all American and international combat forces will be out by the end of 2014.

Now, most people know that Obama did not take office in 2010. So why offer that as the starting point in an analysis of how Obama is “bring[ing] the troops home”? Perhaps because it makes it seem like Obama is actually doing that–even though the facts tell a different story. 

When Obama took office, there were about 32,000 US troops in Afghanistan. A massive escalation of that war on Obama’s watch brought the total near 100,000 (ThinkProgress, 6/22/11). So there’s still almost half again as many US troops in Afghanistan as there were when Obama came to the White House. This is a strange way to “bring the troops home.”

The Times editorial is trying to argue that Obama “still has to make a case” for keeping troops there after 2014. That’s certainly true. But why the Times seems to want to erase the significant increase in Afghanistan troop levels under Obama is a mystery. 



About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.