Despite the rhetorical flourishes, it’s pretty clear President Obama has one foot out the door on Afghanistan. His heart just isn’t in it. Unfortunately, I won’t be the only one to notice that, either here — or overseas.
He’s basically given our troop plus-up as little as a year — by the time they get there in the summer of 2010 – before he starts to drawdown U.S. forces in mid-2011.
Not only will an artificial timetable for withdrawal encourage the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but does President Obama really expect the already-skittish allies and coalition partners to pony up more forces under those conditions? (He’s at least 10,000 troops short for General McChrystal’s baseline strategy.)
(Remembering the Iraq debate, it’s almost like arbitrary timetables for withdrawal are in the Left’s DNA.)
Of course, if U.S. troops start to leave in the summer of 2011, it’ll give the president a talking point that he’s winding down the war as he enters the political build-up to the 2012 presidential election, in hopes of rallying his increasingly fractured base.
In the end, you really couldn’t help but feel we’re seeing a rerun of LBJ as a reluctant war-time president, who committed more troops to Vietnam so as to dodge the scourge of the Democrats — that is, being accused of being “soft” on national security — while really wanting to focus on his Great Society domestic programs.
Unfortunately, we all remember how that turned out. The debate on how to proceed in Afghanistan isn’t over yet.
— Peter Brookes is senior fellow for national-security affairs and Chung Ju-Yung Fellow for Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation