Perhaps the most-discussed part of President Obama's plan for the war in Afghanistan, which he unveiled last night in a speech
at West Point, is the timetable for eventual withdrawal. Here what Obama said
But taken together, these additional American and international troops
will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan
forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of
Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will
execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on
the ground. We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security
forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will
be clear to the Afghan government -- and, more importantly, to the
Afghan people -- that they will ultimately be responsible for their own
Troops will begin to leave in July 2011, but the pace of
draw-down and how long it takes to pull them all out remain open-ended.
Will it work?
- Obama's Only Mistake The Washington Post's David Ignatius praises
Obama's strategy, but takes exception to the timetable. "Obama thinks
that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their
act together at last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of
his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on
a certain date, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or
else. That's the weak link in an otherwise admirable decision -- the
idea that we strengthen our hand by announcing in advance that we plan
to fold it."
- Leverage on Karzai--And on Us Politico's Mike Allen explains
the political use of timetables. "What everyone's missing about the
time constraint (what we call the
July 2011 target to begin withdrawing -- 'ahead of the 2012 elections,'
as The Wall Street Journal snippily put it on the front page this
morning) is that it's leverage on Karzai. And it's leverage, frankly,
on ourselves and on the bureaucracy of the government," he writes. "The
biggest worry is that this becomes a political football."
- I'll Believe It When I See It The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan fears we'll be there far beyond July 2011. "I do not share his confidence in American military and civilian power
to turn the roiling region of Afghanistan and Pakistan into something
less threatening. I see no reason after the last eight years to see how
this can happen, even with these new resources. But if you rule out
withdrawal right away, then this seems to me to be about the smartest
strategy ahead. But I see absolutely no reason to believe that it will
mean withdrawal of any significant amount in Obama's first term."
- No One Buys It, Including Karzai Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch warns, "I believe that Obama and his team really want things to work out this
way, and have carefully thought through how to work it. But when
things don't go their way, will they really follow through on their
promises to draw down? Few people believe that. And if they don't
believe it, then the mechanism of pressure doesn't operate."
- Don't Set Firm Timeline Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf writes
in the Wall Street Journal, "The exit strategy from Afghanistan must
not and cannot be time related.
It has to ask, 'What effect do we want to create on the ground?' We
must eliminate al Qaeda, dominate the Taliban militarily, and establish
a representative, legitimate government in Afghanistan," he writes.
"Pakistan and Afghanistan were shortsightedly abandoned to their fate
the West in 1989, in spite of the fact that they were the ones who won
a victory for the Free World against the Soviet Union. This abandonment
lead to a sense of betrayal amongst the people of the region. For the
sake of regional and world peace, let us not repeat the same mistake."
- Obama's Mixed Messages Politics Daily's David Corn laments,
"Obama's Afghanistan message continues to be mixed." He explains that
Obama promised withdrawal in his speech, but also suggested that troops
will remain as long as it takes to hand over leadership to Afghans.
"It's a bit of a muddle. Moreover, the transfer that is at the core of
Obama's policy depends on the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Obama is betting a lot on an entity that has so far proved to be inept
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