Monday, December 7, 2009
In his primetime address at West Point last Tuesday, President Obama told the American people that even as he planned to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, his administration would “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”
However, senior administration officials were dispatched Sunday in a flurry of coordinated TV appearances to send a forceful message that contradicted Mr. Obama’s West Point timeline for troop withdrawal. By all accounts, it now looks like U.S. military forces will remain in Afghanistan significantly longer than 18 months.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on CBS’s “Face the Nation:”
“There isn’t a deadline. What we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security district by district, province by province in Afghanistan, to the Afghans.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Gates said:
“Under the plan, 100,000 American troops would be in Afghanistan in July 2011, and some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.”
Gen. James L. Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union:”
“We’re going to be in the region for a long time.”
President Obama’s West Point speech set off a barrage of criticism from Republican lawmakers that the president was setting an arbitrary withdrawal date that could embolden Taliban insurgents to wait the Americans out.
All of which calls into question the strategy itself. Why is President Obama sending 30,000 additional combat troops to Afghanistan when even Defense Secretary Robert Gates was forced to admit it had been “years” since the U. S. had any reliable intelligence about the location of Osama bin Laden? U.S. intelligence agencies assume he is hiding in the remote North Waziristan region of northwest Pakistan. Is the U.S. about to fight a war in the wrong country again, just as we did with George W. Bush and Iraq?