Today, the Obama Administration has begun privately and semi-publicly backing away from unrealistic deadlines imposed for the draw down of troops in Afghanistan. The arguments against these deadlines are numerous. Perhaps the most prominent argument is that establishing deadlines for the conflict poses a national security risk by emboldening the Taliban, convincing them that they are capable of winning the war. However, I will present what should be a universally viable argument: there is no way to impose deadlines on any war because the variables involved in war are so numerous that speaking in absolutes is irresponsible. As soon as this realization is achieved, it should be obvious that imposing troop withdrawal dates is a foolish policy. We don’t even need to get into the question of whether imposing deadlines presents a security risk to our troops. The conversation should have ended right there…but then Obama happened…
Nancy Youssef, President of the Pentagon Press Association, broke the story today for McClatchy Newspapers. The lead goes a little something like this:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has decided to begin publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to deemphasize President Barack Obama’s pledge that he would begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials have told McClatchy News Service.
Now, the Obama Administration is in an even tougher bind. They find themselves going back on their promise to the American people– an unintelligent promise to begin with– and they also succeed in alienating the anti-war base of their support. The political suicide began the moment Obama announced his plans for troop withdrawal deadlines, and it has been a slow and agonizing process leading up to today. Here’s more on the White House’s ridiculous contradiction of policy:
The shift already has begun privately and came in part because U.S. officials realized that conditions in Afghanistan were unlikely to allow a speedy withdrawal.
“During our assessments, we looked at if we continue to move forward at this pace, how long before we can fully transition to the Afghans? Of course, we are not going to fully transition to the Afghans by July 2011,” said one senior administration official. “Right now, we think we can start in 2011 and fully transition sometime in 2014.”
The lack of intelligence in this statement is phenomenal. These are the people leading our country. Senior White House officials have just begun to realize that conditions in Afghanistan were unlikely for a speedy withdrawal….
However, this backtrack is not nearly enough. The White House still has a 2011 estimate imposed on troop drawdown. However, you can bet that when 2011 comes around, the White House will again claim that “conditions are unlikely for a speedy withdrawal,” and the vague deadline will be pushed back even further. Why won’t they cut their losses and eliminate this deadline altogether?
The ignorance continues in statements about Pakistan:
Another official said the administration also realized in contacts with Pakistani officials that the Pakistanis had concluded wrongly that July 2011 would mark the beginning of the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
That perception, one Pentagon advisor said, has persuaded Pakistan’s military — which is key to preventing Taliban sympathizers from infiltrating Afghanistan — to continue to press for a political settlement instead of military action.
“This administration now understands that it cannot shift Pakistani approaches to safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan with this date being perceived as a walk-away date,” the advisor said.
Why should Pakistan not conclude that U.S. troop draw down next July would “signal the beginning of the end?” Of course it would….how would that be untrue? It’s pretty simple. When you begin removing troops from a war, you are beginning to end the war.
The final crowning moment of foolishness:
On Tuesday, a White House official who spoke with reporters in a conference call arranged to discuss the December review said the administration might withdraw some troops next July and may hand some communities over to Afghan authorities.
But he said a withdrawal from Afghanistan could take “years,” depending on the capability of the Afghan national security forces.
Deemphasizing deadlines also allows the administration greater flexibility in responding to conditions in Afghanistan, officials said.
One more time…because this contradiction bears repeating: “deemphasizing deadlines also allows the administration greater flexibility in responding to conditions in Afghanistan.” Well, they’ve come this realization that has been explained to them over and over again over the past 2 years. Congratulations, welcome to reality.
It really is frightening to think that the people running our country have no mental capacity for understanding such a significant concept in foreign policy. The rigors of war are complex and unpredictable. Throughout history, Presidents have made the mistake of overestimating the capacity of American forces to provide a swift end to conflict. Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and now Afghanistan. You would think that our leaders would learn this simple lesson. Unfortunately, they have not.