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August 17, 2010

White House: July 2011 Afghanistan Withdrawal "Not-Negotiable"

On Sunday, Gen. Petraeus downplayed the significance of the July, 2011 drawdown date for Afghanistan.

“I don't find it that stifling,” he said. “I'm not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact the president has been very clear, Vice President [Joe] Biden has been very clear as well more recently that this is a date when a process begins, that is conditions-based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and the security forces and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a quote ‘responsible’ drawdown of our forces.”

...Petraeus said the president told him in the Oval Office that he wants his “best professional military advice,” adding that it’s too premature to assess what that might be a year from now. “The president has been quite clear in explaining that it's a process, not an event, and that it's conditioned-based,” he added.

That must have been to clear of a statement for this administration to take, so they promptly tried to muddy the water up again.

But White House spokesman Bill Burton, speaking to reporters traveling on Obama's plane to Milwaukee, said the general's remarks had been taken out of context.

"I think that that is a very thinly sliced parsing of what he had to say. He said very specifically that that deadline stands and there is no daylight between the president or his commanders on the ground when it comes to July 2011," Burton said.

"As you saw with Iraq, when the president makes a commitment, he keeps it. And he intends to do that here as well," he said.

"Obviously the scope and rate of withdrawal will be conditions-based, but the date is not negotiable," Burton added.

What the hell does that mean? You can't have it both ways. If conditions dictate that the"scope and rate" of the withdrawal be none, then the date has no meaning. If the the date means "people are leaving no matter what's going, it's just a question of how many and how fast" then talk of "conditions" is meaningless.

This isn't an issuing of "parsing" words, it is what happens when you try to manage a war looking at a political calendar.

The first big date on that calendar is this year's midterms. Obama can't depress an already battered leftwing by saying his "date" is meaningless, even if its very existence makes it harder to accomplish anything by then.

The second date on the calendar (and the one that really counts) is November 2012. Obama wants to have something concrete to show to Democrats and nervous independents that we are on a glide path out of the 10 plus year fight in Afghanistan.

Obama's big problem is whether or not Petraeus plays ball. If the general says a little more time will produce big results, Obama will have to keep triangulating...saying he's pulling out, while appearing to give Petraeus (whom many Americans view as a military savior) what he asks for. Either that or he will publicly smack Petraeus down (very politely) and say, "Sorry Dave, I gave you everything you asked for and you and the boys gave it your best shot but as the Commander in Chief, I'm making the call to withdraw. Thank you for your service. Hey, who is up for Hope and Change, Round II?"

It's a hell of a way to run a war.

Oh and as for the "As you saw with Iraq, when the president makes a commitment, he keeps it" bit? Screw you Obama. You inherited all of that (time lines and everything) from Bush. Now you guys are to demure to talk about Bush? Punks.

Via Gabe.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:01 PM

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