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June 22, 2011

Obama Afghanistan Drawdown Plan: 30,000 Surge Troops Out By Next Fall

Here we go.

President Obama plans to announce Wednesday evening that he will order the withdrawal of 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan this year, and another 20,000 troops, the remainder of the 2009 “surge,” by the end of next summer, according to administration officials and diplomats briefed on the decision.

These troop reductions are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they reflect mounting political and economic pressures at home, as the president faces relentless budget pressures and an increasingly restive Congress and American public.

I know a lot of people will point to the advice of the generals but it actually doesn't bother me for one reason...this is a political/national strategy decision, not simply a military one. Obviously the professional advice of military commanders is paramount in how to fight a war but this is essentially a decision about how to end a nearly decade long war.

But the speed and scope of this plan is striking.

It amounts to a broad rethinking of the military’s troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that Mr. Obama adopted 18 months ago after a painstaking review. Officials have indicated that the administration now plans to place more emphasis on focused counterterrorism operations of the kind that killed Osama bin Laden — which the president is expected to cite as Exhibit A for a substantial American drawdown.

For good or bad, hat kind of decision is properly a decision for civilian political leaders. Ultimately, the President is the only one who has to face voters on an issue like this. Purely as a matter of electoral politics, it puts Obama in line with most Americans.

For the first time, a majority (56%) says that U.S. troops should be brought home as soon as possible, while 39% favor keeping troops in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized.

The proportion favoring a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces has increased by eight points since last month (from 48%), immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden. A year ago, just 40% favored removing the troops as soon as possible, while 53% favored keeping them in Afghanistan until the situation stabilized.


Republican support for removing U.S. troops as soon as possible has risen 12 points since last June. At that time, 65% of Republicans favored keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan until the situation is stabilized while 31% favored removing them as soon as possible. In the current survey, 53% support keeping the troops there and 43% favor their withdrawal.

Over the past year, support for withdrawing the troops has doubled among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party. A year ago only 21% favored immediate troop withdrawal; that has risen to 42% currently.

The military advice of generals is important but ultimately it's the opinion and will of the American people that matters most.

As always, Obama seems to manage to find a "solution" that is the worst of all possible worlds.

I argued when Obama announce the surge there was a strong case for moving more to counter-terrorism at the time and start to draw down. But Obama decided to up the ante. Now that there might be some progress being made, he's going to pull the plug on his plan and put whatever gains have been made at risk.

The strategy he announced in December 2009 was going to require a significant commitment of time (more than two years) but his reelection strategy was always going to conflict with that. Was it ever really in doubt which imperative would win in the end?

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posted by DrewM. at 04:05 PM

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