Saturday, December 5, 2009

Confusion on Obama's Afghan Withdrawal Date Remains

During Obama's speech at West Point on the future of the war in Afghanistan he announced a time table to start withdrawing from Afghanistan. I criticzed him for setting a withdrawal date while acknowledging that he appeared to leave himself a bit of wiggle room; and then there was some question to if Afghanistan withdrawal date was flexible or set in stone. There is still some confusion and conflict answers.

The first new explanation/caveat is that while the troops will start leaving at the set date, they may not finish leaving until years later. Basically, as long as one soldier comes home by the deadline then technically speaking the withdrawal has begun. This explanation seems a bit disingenuous. It also seems highly dangerous. You are telling the enemy that our soldiers will not be reinforced while leaving them there which seems an awful bad idea.

"The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, scheduled to begin in July 2011, will "probably" take two or three years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday, although he added that "there are no deadlines in terms of when our troops will all be out.""

The next is who the withdrawal applies to generally. The two possibilities are the surge forces or everyone. Here the Obama administration is also trying to play it both ways.

"The Obama administration is giving different explanations of its July 2011 deadline for the start of an Afghanistan troop withdrawal, assuring foreign officials that it applies only to the 30,000 to 35,000 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama is sending next year, but suggesting to Congress that it covers all U.S. forces.

The conflicting versions suggest that the administration is trying to reassure U.S. allies in the region and elsewhere that the U.S. won't cut and run, while telling a concerned American public, Congress and Democratic Party that it has an exit strategy.

When you try to have things both ways you risk having neither. If the Obama administration does not clear this up quickly, that will be the position they will be in.

More thoughts at

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