Posted by Michael Cohen
Over at Foreign Policy I have a new post up looking at the politics of Afghanistan withdrawal - and why ending not one not two wars a year before a presidential election is basically unheard of:
Barack Obama is nothing if not a trailblazing politician -- after all, when you're the first African-American elected to the nation's highest office, breaking the mold is sort of part of your political DNA. However, with the announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Tuesday, Feb. 1, that the Obama administration intends to end combat operations in Afghanistan in mid-2013 he is laying out another unique course -- seeking re-election this November as the architect of two drawdowns of U.S. military engagements. This is the kind of thing doesn't happen too often in American politics.
You can read the whole thing here.
But there is one smaller point I wanted to reference. Check out what Mitt Romney had to say about Panetta's announcement:
“The president’s mistakes, some of them are calculated on a philosophy that’s hard to understand and, sometimes, you scratch you head and say: How can he be so misguided and so naive?”
“Today, his secretary of defense unleashed such a policy,” said Romney. “The secretary of defense said that on a day certain, the middle of 2013, we’re going to pull out our combat troops from Afghanistan.”
He announced that. So the Taliban hears it, the Pakistanis hear it, the Afghan leaders hear it,” said Romney. “Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the date you’re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense.”
First of all it's not true that the US is going to pull out combat troops in 2013; rather the US is going to be shifting away from a combat mission in 2013. That's an important distinction.
But here's the interesting part - look at what Romney said in June 2011 at a Republican debate:
It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over to the Taliban military in a way that they're able to defend themselves.
I suppose in fairness Romney didn't reveal the date that US troops would be leaving as soon as possible so I suppose he is in the clear here.