Sunday, December 06, 2009

When Is a Timetable Not a Timetable?

The news that the Obama Administration is taking to the airwaves to clarify and extend an Afghan strategy that minimizes and deemphasizes an actual deadline for removing troops isn't going to leave many of his supporters happy.
In a flurry of coordinated television interviews by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials, they 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.

The television appearances by the senior members of Mr. Obama’s war council appeared to be part of a focused and determined effort to ease concerns about the president’s emphasis on setting a date for reducing America’s presence in Afghanistan after more than eight years of war.

“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.”

Echoing General Jones, Mr. Gates played down the significance of the July 2011 target date and indicated that the United States might withdraw only a small number of troops at that time.

“There isn’t a deadline,” Mr. Gates said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “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.”
It's actually the right thing for President Obama to have done (clarifying that the deadline wasn't a hard and fast date but a guideline. He should never have mentioned a specific date, but now that a date was released, the Administration is working overtime to focus on the weasel words he used in his speech to the cadets at West Point.

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