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December 14, 2009

Afghanistan Withdawal Timeline Watch - UPDATED
Posted by Michael Cohen

So remember when President Obama said we could have 30,000 American troops in Afghanistan by the by "the first part of 2010 -- the fastest pace possible -- so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers." Well not so fast:

The military may not finish its surge of 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan until nearly a year from now, a senior U.S. commander said Monday — a slower pace than President Barack Obama has described. The White House insisted it was sticking with a goal of completing the buildup by late summer.

The reinforcements begin arriving next week, and the bulk of the troops are scheduled to be in Afghanistan by the end of summer. But it will probably be nine to 11 months before all the troops are in place, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez said. Military officials had been hinting in recent weeks that the escalation might take slightly longer than the summer goal, suggesting the administration's announcement of such a rapid escalation might not be entirely firm.

FWIW, late summer is not the first part of 2010, but I quibble. I think we can expect a lot more of these types of stories - you know the ones where the hopes of policymakers comes face-to-face with the difficult logistical and political realities of trying to wage a counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Now granted it is possible that the US can get 30,000 troops into Afghanistan by the summer, but combine this news with the furious backtracking done by Administration officials in the days after the President's speech about that June 2011 withdrawal timeline and I think we have a pretty clear sense of what direction this policy is going . . . or perhaps I should say which direction American troops won't be heading any time soon: home.


And now this follow-up from David Ignatius:

I asked Lt Gen. David Rodriquez, the No. 2 US commander here, in a briefing tonight how long the deployment of the extra 30,000 would take. He answered that "it will happen between nine and eleven months," starting in January 2010. Which means that some troops might not arrive until November 2010.

The next month after that, December 2010, is when Obama plans to assess how well the troops are doing -- so he can decide how many to pull out when the withdrawal begins in July 2011. That doesn't give him much time to make good decisions.

Am I the only person who worries that "fuzzy math" is being used here?

Actually David, you're not the only person. And this little factoid in Ignatius's post makes me a wonder a bit more about how the President, with a straight face, said that US troops would be in Afghanistan by the first part of 2010:

U.S. McChrystal's original finishing point for adding 40,000 troop was March 2011. Now it has been "rushed" to November 2010 for 30,000 troops.

If November 2010 is rushed, why was the president talking about the first part of 2010?

At the time there were several elements of the president's speech at West Point that struck me as not completely accurate - the conflation of Pakistan Taliban with Afghan Taliban was perhaps the most obvious example, but there was also the threat inflation in respect to al Qaeda and the misleading notion that Af/Pak is the "epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida" when in fact Afghanistan has lacked an al-Qaida presence since 2002. But now we see that Obama may have been exaggerating how quickly the military could get US troops into the country - a not insignificant fact considering that in the speech he also announced an 18-month timeline for beginning to turn over security responsibility to the Afghan government.


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Everybody knows that the real reason US troops are in Afghanistan, is to keep the opium fields in full production. Until we remove all our troops from the middle-east, and do something to solve our problems at home, our reputation in every country is ruined. If I could afford to go anywhere after the damage the neoconservative war/profit-mongers have done to our economy, I would definitely say I was from Canada. I invite you to my pages devoted to raising awareness on these important issues:

really the prospect of sending additional soldiers has created a backlash among some Democrats in Congress and has angered anti-war activists on the left who rallied behind Obama's presidential candidacy last year.

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Seriously, what is going to come of all this? The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, supposedly because of the attacks on Sep 11. We have had a minimal sustained force there well below the amount of troops stationed in Iraq, which were deployed two years after the initial Afghan invasion. Then it's decided that there needs to be a surge in Iraq so the Iraqis can take control of their country and we can leave, or so it seemed. Well, we're still here. And by 'we're' I mean I'm in the Army and I'm here right now. And it's 2010, seven years after the initial invasion and nine years after the initial invasion of Afghanistan. And now their talking about a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan with the same kind of 'surge-strategy' thrown in. Obviously we have no intentions of leaving either country in the near future, so why not come out and say it? Does the government constantly have to satisfy both sides of this issue, or can we finally get something resolved? It makes me sick! And not because I'm slated to go to Afghanistan in 2012 either! Which is rediculous, because the whole point of the surge is to have troops out of there quicker, but how many years do you need? Military objectives shouldn't take longer than a few years. It's insane!

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