The Associated Press: Troop pullout in Afghanistan set for next summer

From today’s AP feed:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds.

That’s not changing. Everybody agreed on that date,” Rahm Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy girding the war: Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

OK, eff it. Let’s just take our ball and go home.
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33 thoughts on “The Associated Press: Troop pullout in Afghanistan set for next summer”

  1. He’s going to take an incredible amount of heat for this, especially from the right. I don’t think I’m going very far out on a limb when I guess that get enough reflexive vitriol about this to generate a sympathy backlash.

    I myself am not happy about it, not at all. And I think he does deserve some heat in terms of the deeply goofy campaign promises he made. (I never lost that sense of cynical amusement I had when I realized that McCain was going the multi-lateral co-operative approach, while Obama went the saber-rattling unilateralist approach. I knew they were both lying, because neither approach made sense.)

    But I am going to wait– weeks or months if I have to– to see if I can get a sense of any strategy (or, dare I hope, grand strategy) in the offing, here.

    In 2001, we had no option but to go in and do something. It was a domestic and an international necessity. In 2010, despite that Bin Laden is still “at large”, I am not convinced Afghanistan is a driving strategic concern. Al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 effectively does not exist, and is likely not coming back.

    Pakistan is a driving strategic concern. India is a driving grand strategic concern. Afghanistan is important to both of those, certainly, but not in and of itself. So it’s at least possible that we’re throwing good money (and lives) after wasted ones.

    So I am going to wait and see.

  2. So I am going to wait and see.

    I’d feel better about waiting if I thought our President and Secretary of State were the least bit competent. But I don’t, I expect them to continue screwing up since that’s pretty much what they do. I’ll survive, but some folks are going to get hurt. For politics.

  3. Marcus:

    But I am going to wait– weeks or months if I have to– to see if I can get a sense of any strategy (or, dare I hope, grand strategy) in the offing, here.

    Heh. Optimism is the new cynicism.

  4. I would note that this is Rahm Emmanuel advancing his side of the policy debate, not necessarily the settled decision of the President that come summer 2011, we are leaving regardless of the actual conditions on the ground. Both SECSTATE Clinton and SECDEF Gates have been clear that the timetable is still somewhat conditions-based, and President Obama– as with Emmanuel’s more recent statement– has said nothing to indicate that he’s made up his mind on that important point.

    If summer 2011 comes and GEN McChrystal and AMB Eikenberry are able to report that we have achieved some demonstrable progress, appear to be on the right track, but still need some time for the gains to be enduring (think Iraq 2008), I strongly suspect that SECDEF Gates and GEN Petraeus (at least; not as sure about ADM Mullen) will ask Congress and the White House for a little more time.

    And given the number of campaign promises that President Obama has scuttled (especially, and tellingly, the national security campaign promises), I think it would be unfair not to assume that the President wouldn’t make the tough call to buck his core constituents one more time and support the efforts that would most likely bring the war in Afghanistan to a more successful conclusion that offers the best chance for enduring security. I remain confident that President Obama wants to leave as successful an outcome as possible, and is not going to “cut and run” simply because it is politically expedient.

  5. Obama appears to be intent on adding the “weak horse” perception to the mix.

    What Obama is intent on doing is realigning the United States with the forces that produced Al Qaeda, because as a leftist he believes that anti-Western movements are morally superior, no matter how violent, tyrannical, and vile they may be – in fact, the more violence, tyranny and vileness, the better they like it.

    So in case you haven’t heard, there is no such thing as terrorism, and Jihad means “I like ice cream.”

  6. Because, Phil, the discussion is about whether we should stay in Afghanistan under the same mission-model, change to a new one, or draw down.

    If the response to my claim that Al Qaeda is likely not coming back is vigorous unqualified disagreement, I’ll tend to take that– in this context– as an argument against drawdown, since Al Qaeda was the only reason we went there in the first place.

    I’m sorry if I read you wrong, but the reading is not unreasonable.

    I’m going to stand by my statement that Al Qaeda is basically finished, too. Al Qaeda has failed to demostrate any truly global reach in many years, over half a decade. It’s struggled to demonstrate even regional effectivity. More than anything, it’s a sort of a brand name, now, co-opted by other groups. In that sense, it will probably never go away, but that doesn’t make it important.

    At a rough guess, I’d say the most strategically relevant trouble-makers in the area are the (Pakistani) Taliban, because of the danger they pose to Pakistan. And if I thought Pakistan was going to put on its big boy pants, and play hammer and anvil on both groups from both sides of the border, I’d have a different opinion.

    But I don’t think they can. Therefore, I don’t think they will. Therefore, I’m left wondering what the overall strategy is– if I knew that, I could (maybe!) comment more effectively on how to go about it.

  7. _ because as a leftist he believes that anti-Western movements are morally superior_

    I said this nicely before, and challenged you on this last week (or the week before…can’t remember). But you really seem to believe this, so there’s only one proper reply.

    This is a stupid statement. You’ve provided no such proof for this statement, and continually discounted a million other reasons why the left would like modernize the ME other than “shock & awe:

    Now, please avoid conspiracy theories and stick to the meat of the discussion.

    Now, on Afghanistan.

    I’m still of very mixed feelings on what to do here.

    I was very positive on Afghanistan for a long time, but the situation is no longer so simple.We spent 8 years doing nothing, and now expect that we can simply turn the tide. To my knowledge, there is not a single modern battlefied where a group has said ‘meh’ for a prolonged engagement, followed by success.

    In this case, international aid has pretty much dried up. What has been spent was basically thrown away. Afghani good will is gone, and largely corrupted into tribal control. The only thing stabilizing the nation seems to be the formation of a narco-state.

    I just don’t know how you spread enough goodwill to see forward movement on the ground. At least not without big dollars attached, and without a major resettlement of tribal power. In order to be successful (in the long term), we’d actually have to make Afghanistan alot worse.

    This doesn’t mean I’m in favor of withdrawal, but at the same time, I’m not sure how we can succeed.

  8. If a conclusion is based on a false premise, the conclusion may still be true. That doesn’t mean that the argument that led to that conclusion should be credited.

    I think you’re missing my point, so I’ll spell it out for you. Osama bin Ladin may be dead. His chief lieutenants are dead or captured. The cell structure of his organization is badly compromised.

    None of that matters.

    The geopolitical and social conditions that led to the formation of al Qaeda are still extant. The diabetic sheik isn’t coming back, but he will be replaced. The only way that al Qaeda (or a functionally indistinguishable successor) isn’t coming back is if it is prevented from coming back. I read you as saying that is a remote possibility at best. You seem to double down on that with your last post. I’ll be equally unequivocal in stating that I don’t have a policy prescription at this time, but any policy prescription that even marginally hinges on “and al Qaeda isn’t coming back” is foolish.

  9. alchemist:

    This is a stupid statement. You’ve provided no such proof for this statement, and continually discounted a million other reasons why the left would like modernize the ME other than “shock & awe” …

    I did not know there were a million reasons why the left wanted to “modernize” the ME. I’d like to know what just one of them was, and I’ll bet I’d have to ask Helen Thomas to get a straight answer.

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Obama is engaged in any sort of conspiracy regarding the ME. Geopolitical conspiracies are a lot of work: planning, organization, communication, etc. Long nights in the map room are not Obama’s thing. Also, conspiracies require some minimal ability to conceal your intentions, and this is the most transparent president ever.

    Obama displays no interest at all in Afghanistan or the ME. He displays only the lazy prejudices of his class, including a smoldering resentment of Israel. He blatantly regards Afghanistan as Bush’s problem, not his.

    So we will leave Afghanistan, not as a strategy or conspiracy, but in the manner of a high school kid cutting afternoon classes.

  10. ‘modernize’ isn’t exactly the right word I was looking for. Neither is appeasement. There are many reasons that the left (& right) support nation building/draining the swamps. And there are many reasonable reasons to give up on that goal.

    Obama has not done well explaining the rationale thus far, probably because they did not expect so much to leak this early. Whatever reason he puts forward, it’s not likely to play well, even if it’s politically favorable.

    However, I can guarantee that his reasons is not ‘appeasement’. Or ‘to make america look bad’. That’s a preposterous position.

  11. toc3 –

    You continue to make these “glib” statements of your “feelings”.

    Those are feelings? Hah! And people tell me I don’t have any!

    Let me share some more with you. Over the past several years we have had extended discussions of Obama’s nature and character – see “here”:http://danziger.pixelgate.net/archives/since_i_do_this_for_a_living.html for example – and some may remember that there was a time when I was disposed to be generous toward and hopeful about the man. I appreciated the fact that it was difficult for a black politician to rise without the acquiescence of the Jackson-Sharpton elements, and harder still to leave that culture behind without appearing to be an ingrate. (Since then it has become apparent, to me at least, that Obama had no trouble getting his ticket punched wherever he went, and is not worried about being an ingrate.)

    Obama is the POTUS and I am entitled to assess his character all I want to. It is especially necessary given that Obama is not a man of clearly stated principles, as was Ronald Reagan, or even Jimmy Carter. He lurks behind generalities, and his supporters jealously guard his wall of generalities, but I do not like or respect generalities.

    BTW, for many years I asked Bill Clinton supporters to describe what Clinton – in terms of values and principles – represented to them. I never got a good answer; “He makes the right-wingers mad” was typical.

    I would be glad to hear the principled defense of Obama. I would be glad to see someone solidly refute everything I have said about him.

    PS – “Maybe he knows what he’s doing” is not acceptable to me.

  12. Marcus –

    You’re right that a sneer is not an argument, but neither is it a refutation.

    I could run through the litany of Obama’s past positions, statements, and associations, but all of that has been done. It is my belief that Obama’s actions and inactions are perfectly consistent with his past, and that there is nothing about his presidency that could not have been predicted.

    For the last time, I am willing to hear the case for Obama that doesn’t amount to giving him the endless benefit of the doubt. Benefit of the doubt is like the treasury; you can push it into deficit as far as you want, but you have to admit it has at least theoretical limits.

  13. Glen, please.

    Playing the Obama-as-radical-anti-American card and *then* claiming to be reasonable, fair, and open-minded about him?

    No.

    I like this place because it’s often a good place to have a reasonable discussion about important events, with people who disagree with me. Spraying the anti-American meme really poisons that well, though.

  14. Marcus –

    It is not a card, and I do not play it. Calling it such does not answer it. This is not a game, though God knows I wish it was.

    The good of the nation outweighs deference and “fairness” to individuals – unless we’re living in a monarchy.

    I regard Obama as a man whose beliefs are well removed from his public face, even though his public face is as vague and blurry as he can possibly make it. He is not the first such person in history. The fact that other people had negative views (to put it mildly) of Bush is irrelevant.

  15. *But it still seems to me that Obama’s handling of what’s going on in the world does boil down to those two possibilities*

    I would also suggest that there are more than two possibilities at work there as well.

  16. A cute characterization of the Obama Regime I saw on the ‘net.

    Hype and Chains

    You can add to that the coming War in the ME which will make our dust up in Iraq look like, well, a dust up.

    The Saudis know it is coming. Look up

    “Saudi Israel Overflight”

    When the Israelis and Saudis are semi-secret allies you know the balloon is about to go up.

  17. We are talking about an AP report that the administration intends to “begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer.” That seems like a pretty modest proposition. Promising to “begin” to pull out troops in 12 to 15 months, especially in light of the fact that we are currently adding troops, does not seem to be overly committal. Of course, Obama today is saying they will review the situation in September (and December, and next Spring), and who knows what magic Patreus and BG will accomplish by then.

    In light of this mild non-event, I am struck by the strong emotions this has provoked here. I’m trying to understand, in particular, Glen Wishard’s posts. I think Glen agrees that he is expressing his feelings (negative) about Obama in general. He’s not constructing an argument based on facts. I am struck, however, by the lack of a connection between the emotion expressed and any demonstrable (or at least not demonstrated) underlying facts.

    Yesterday I was in Sacramento listening to Dan Logue, representative from the 3rd Assembly District. Logue is a self described “fiscal conservative, small businessman (he owns a realty company), and staunch opponent of high taxation and government waste.” His current focus is to bring about a suspension of AB 32, which establishes a statewide green house gas emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions, and tasks the California Air Resources Board to come up with appropriate regulations. He was talking to a group of contractors who are supportive of Logue because CARB is regulating the emissions of heavy construction equipment, which is very expensive and, contractors believe, wasteful. Many contractors have legitimate concerns about being forced to sell perfectly good equipment and purchase brand new machinery at great cost. In laying out his argument Logue asserted that “I don’t believe in global warming; in fact just last year the arctic ice shield grew 40%.” Much of his talk was in that vein. It struck me that what he was saying about the ice shield, an obviously erroneous statement, was not a matter of concern for him—it was simply a way to illustrate his strong feeling about the matter. The details of global warming, whatever they may be, did not concern him or play a functional role in his argument.

    I think Glen’s comments about Obama here are similar.

  18. Roland:

    I’m trying to understand, in particular, Glen Wishard’s posts. I think Glen agrees that he is expressing his feelings (negative) about Obama in general.

    Well, you don’t understand, but you might be getting warm. My feelings about Obama are indeed negative, but they are specific, not “general”. They have to do with things like a ruinous, statist approach to domestic policy, and an equally ruinous approach to foreign policy – such as poisoning our relations with Israel and Britain for no good reason or gain whatsoever.

    But since we must apparently be hostage to the notion that everything Obama does might possibly be part of some deep plan which we cannot fathom, then there is no point in discussing Obama, or anything Obama does, is there? We might as well talk about the f–king World Cup footie.

    If there is going to be discussion, then I would like to hear some positive theses defending Obama.

  19. Glen:

    There surely is room for debate on Obama, as there is on most anything. My concern here is not to defend Obama but to raise the level of discussion a bit. If we’re going to make sweeping statements like:

    #9:

    Obama . . .believes that anti-Western movements are morally superior, no matter how violent, tyrannical, and vile they may be – in fact, the more violence, tyranny and vileness, the better they like it.

    or #14:

    Obama displays no interest at all in Afghanistan or the ME. He displays only the lazy prejudices of his class, including a smoldering resentment of Israel.

    I’d say the onus is on the person making the statement to come up with the goods to back it up. This rule obviously does not apply to the likes of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh (“here’s a mild example”:http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_021609/content/01125109.guest.html/), and Michael Savage, who make millions from emotional and false arguments. But noone is making millons here, so there is no excuse to make undisciplined wild statements accusing the President of impeachable offenses. We have the luxury to ask for, and to expect, some more rigor in our arguments.

    Now it strikes me that the two comments, above, are pretty silly on their face. You’re a smart guy and a good writer, so I’m assuming that you are saying these things for some purpose other than their factual content. It’s not apparent to me, however, what that purpose is. My hypothesis, as I tried to explain with the paragraph on Dan Logue’s comment above (that the ice cap increased 40% last year), is that the function of your statement is to punctuate that you really feel strongly. I think it would be better to latch on to some real demonstrable fact (more boring, I know) to explain why you feel how you do. To resort to extreme fantasies like Obama (and liberals) likes violent anti-western movements becausee he thinks they are morally superior to Western culture, is rather (to borrow your phrase) to succumb to the lazy prejudice of your (political) class.

    We can do better here.

  20. Roland:

    My concern here is not to defend Obama but to raise the level of discussion a bit.

    Yes, no one seems to be concerned with defending Obama, or much of anything else. Why the hell not?

    I know you haven’t been living in a tree for the past year, so you must be aware of Obama’s plummeting reputation, at home and abroad. I know you don’t like this, so why don’t you say something about it? Is it so hard to articulate?

    This is the same kind of thing I heard from so-called Clinton supporters. They would rave themselves purple over Ken Starr, accuse Clinton’s critics of being Vincent Foster sick-thinkers, and lump everybody with Limbaugh and Savage – since, like you, they regarded that as “raising the level of the discussion”.

    But when it came to a positive exposition of the values that they shared with the Clintons, a principled defense … the whole bunch of them didn’t have enough spit in them to lick a postage stamp. Why is that?

    So I’m waiting to hear from someone who is here to defend Obama. I’m not interesting in hearing people bitch about birth certificates and how crazy unfair everybody is to Obama. I hear enough of that as it is. I hear it so much, I begin to suspect that people have nothing else to say.

  21. Glen:

    Ultimately the personality in the office of the president is not the issue. It’s the issues. The issue on this thread is Afghanistan, and a promise to start a draw down next summer. I think it’s useful to stay on topic and to leave the other crticisms we may have of Obama’s policies for another thread.

    In the meantime, I don’t know enough to judge too definitively on the issue of Afghanistan, especially not with any hubris. By all indications, McChrystal, Petreus, Gates and Obama are on the same page regarding Afghanistan policy in general.

    I think Obama handled the McChrystal/Petreus transition pretty well. Efficiently and not much fuss.

    “Some folks”:http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2009/10/cheney_obama_di.html/ have jumped up and down about Obama dithering about his decision to send in more troops. Back in October of ’09, with winter coming on, and no good options seemingly available, I think Obama had the luxury of a few weeks of reflection. Time was not of the essence, as it was right after 9/11. It seems clear that real change in Afghanistan is going to be a long time in coming.

    A real difference, I’m imagining, would require a commitment of substantially more troops for a long time. I don’t think there is a commitment from the international community to pay for this, and we certainly don’t have the political will to contribute bodies and resources to build up that country over the next 20 years. So that’s not really an option that any president has.

    Bush had Petreus running Iraq; Obama has Petreus running Afghanistan. Obama has beefed up our troop level in Afghanistan. They both had the same secretary of defense. So based on that I don’t see where you’re coming from with your apocalyptic statements quoted above.

  22. Or, alternately, I’m going to refrain from doing the thing that always infuriates me when I see other people doing it.

    At least for a little while.

  23. bq. Al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 effectively does not exist, and is likely not coming back.

    1. Qutbism/Wahhabism/alltheothernastyisms haven’t gone anywhere.

    2. Syria, Iran, and the Horn of Africa are still safe havens.

    3. The US is still in Holy Islamic Lands.

    4. Israel still exists.

    5. Etc., etc., etc.

    All of the elements that led to the formation of Al Qaeda are still in place. Obama appears to be intent on adding the “weak horse” perception to the mix. Al Qaeda is not coming back? Santayana would like a word with you.

  24. Phil, you appear to be saying that we have to stay in Afghanistan until we’ve either built a western style democracy, or until Islam at large has reformed.

    Is that about right?

    Because as strategies go, that one’s not great– it’s an open-ended commitment to unachievable goals.

    Note carefully, by the way: I’m not saying that there is no strategic reason to stay. But I’m having a hard time putting one together that doesn’t involve other places, which tells me that maybe Afghanistan isn’t the right focus.

  25. Really, Marcus? Care to point out where I made any prescriptive statements at all?

    No, I merely pointed out to you that all of the conditions that existed prior to the formation of “al Qaeda” exist today, and in fact, are stronger than they were two decades ago. “Al Qaeda” or something with indistinguishable goals and methods, will be back stronger than ever. If the permanent dissolution of al Qaeda is a prerequisite for a stated policy, that policy is in bad shape.

    I’m not convinced that that is the only reason or even a necessary reason to leave A-stan, but the argument that al Qaeda is finished, therefore we can/should follow policy X, is a bad one. At best, it’s kicking the can.

  26. Alchemist, I’m not sure “appeasement” is a completely unfair term to use for Obama’s approach to Iran, though it certainly would be dumb to assert (which I don’t believe Glen did) that he is deliberately trying to make America look bad.

    Having said that though, when I look at the umitigated disaster that is the Obama foreign policy–from coddling the mullahs, Chavez, and the Palestinians to slapping Britain in the face to the Honduran “coup” debacle, to abandoning Israel to dithering over the Afghan surge to the rigid timeline for exiting Afghanistan–I see only two possibilities

    1. Incompetence
    2. A fundamental realignment of our foreign policy in accordance with Obama’s academic leftist world view.

    Glen may be wrong about it being number 2; it may be simple incompetence and naivete, but frankly, I find both prospects equally scary.

  27. _to abandoning Israel_

    I’m not sure “2.7 billion”:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3713261,00.html in missile defense aid is considered ‘abandonment’. For 2.7 billion, you can say as many mean things to me as you want…

    Here’s the thing I’ve noticed here lately: there seems to be only 3 possibilities: either you agree with us, you’re incompetent, or it’s some radical left doctrine designed to “appease” mullahs.

    And that’s a gross misreading of what many on the left advocate for (like Lynch, for example).

  28. -from coddling the mullahs, Chavez, and the Palestinians to slapping Britain in the face to the Honduran “coup” debacle, to abandoning Israel to dithering over the Afghan surge to the rigid timeline for exiting Afghanistan–I see only two possibilities

    1. Incompetence
    2. A fundamental realignment of our foreign policy in accordance with Obama’s academic leftist world view.

    There if a fundamental re-alignment going on in the world, politically, economically, socially, technologically, ecologically, etc. All are radical and all are going on at the same time. We have not seen anything like that before.

    I am not defending Obama’s Foreign Policy, but your description of it is hopelessly simplistic.

    I would also suggest that their are a lot more than 2 possibilities involved in what is going on in the world.

  29. Glen,

    You continue to make these “glib” statements of your “feelings”. I use the word glib, because they are just that. They slide off the tongue and appear to be intended to do not much more than score points, sound clever to your ear and not to speak to anything more profound.

    I use the word feelings because that is all they are. They wide ranging claims or, better, verbal flourishes that work for theater critics but no so much for anyone commenting on reality.

  30. Obama is the POTUS and I am entitled to assess his character all I want to.

    Your audience, however, is entitled to assess your argument and the quality of your thought.

    In this case, I assess that they are the glorious equal of all those knee-jerk left-wingers claiming that Bush went to Iraq because of a personal grudge on behalf of his father.

  31. _I would also suggest that their are a lot more than 2 possibilities involved in what is going on in the world._

    And I would agree. But it still seems to me that Obama’s _(mis)handling_ of what’s going on in the world does boil down to those two possibilities.

  32. But it still seems to me that Obama’s handling of what’s going on in the world does boil down to those two possibilities

    _I would also suggest that there are more than two possibilities at work there as well._

    I’m sure that’s what some people said about Jimmy Carter’s foriegn policy 30+ years ago. He was incompetent,and so is Obama. That will become painfully clear even to his strongest supporters over the next few years.

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