You may recall Obama’s war speech last week wherein he set a definite timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Specifically, his words were:
And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
Straight, direct, no real room for ambiguity there. “After 18 months our troops will (not “might”, not “could”) come home.”
How, then, to explain this article in today’s New York Times with the headline “No Firm Plans for a US Exit From Afghanistan”? Well, let’s see:
In a flurry of coordinated television interviews, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials said that any troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be slow and that the Americans would only then be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces under Mr. Obama’s new plan.
Clever, clever Obama! The soldiers will begin coming home in July 2011, but he never specified how quickly! By this logic our presence in Afghanistan could still be unlimited. We only have to send one soldier home per year.
Here’s some justification from an important-sounding General:
“We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times,” said Gen. James L. Jones, the president’s national security adviser, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re going to be in the region for a long time.”
See, it’s okay! We’ve got “strategic interests” in South Asia, apparently so important that they must be measured in infinite terms. Just don’t bother trying to find out what those “interests” might be.
Mr. Gates said that 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.”
When Obama thundered to West Point that US troops will begin coming home in 2011, he neglected to mention that “handful” bit. But who can blame him – the speech sounded so much better with the deception left in.
Well at least we might have a chance at catching Osama Bin Laden. Isn’t that right, Mr. Gates?
Mr. Gates said it had been “years” since the United States had had reliable intelligence about Mr. bin Laden, but he said it was still the assumption of American intelligence agencies that he was hiding in North Waziristan, in Pakistan.