We never had time to post some thoughts about President Obama’s Afghanistan speech before the big radio show today and we’ve been pretty busy with other items this afternoon. So here is a recap and some thoughts about Obama’s decision to surge troop strength by 30,000 and then start leaving in July 2011.July 2011
There has been quite a bit of discussion concerning a public announcement of a date when the United States will start pulling out of Afghanistan. The word unconditional was used earlier today before noon ET when referring to the July 2011 start of troop reduction, but it is no longer mentioned. Should the administration and military planners have a date in mind inside of the overall plan? Sure, but many think making the date public is a mistake.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated a review of the progress would take place in Dec. 2010. From the Washington Times this afternoon. (The previous headline for the Times’ story did include the word unconditional – I swear.)
“If it appears that the strategy’s not working, and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself,” he [Defense Secretary Gates] said.
The Pentagon chief said Mr. Obama’s June 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. forces was needed to stress to the people of Afghanistan the need to take responsibility for their own security needs. But he also signaled some flexibility in the time line Mr. Obama laid down in his nationally televised address from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on Tuesday evening.
“We’re not just going to throw these guys into the swimming pool and walk away,” Mr. Gates told the committee. “It will be based on conditions on the ground, but at the same time . . . we have to build a fire under them, frankly, to get them to do the kind of recruitment and retention that allows us to make this transition.”
But asked specifically by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, who is Senate Armed Forces Committee chairman, if the July 2011 date set by Mr. Obama to begin the “transition” process could be “conditions-based,” Mr. Gates replied, “No, sir.”
In a press briefing yesterday afternoon, a senior administration official noted the president would be mentioning a specific date, but he did not want people to freak out about it.
What the President will talk about tonight is a date [July 2011] by which he has given the mission that we will begin to transfer our lead responsibility — that is, the U.S. and NATO lead responsibilities from that operation — to Afghan counterparts. He will not, however, tonight specify the end of that transition process, nor will he specify the pace at which it will proceed. Those variables — pace and end — will be dictated by conditions on the ground.
OK – so the goal is to start the transition of control from U.S. and NATO forces in July 2011, but there will be a review of the progress in Dec. 2010 and the July 2011 date can flex. So, what will be the major objectives to measure in Dec. 2010 to define what will happen in July 2011?
Some will argue the mission is loosely defined, but from the speech, we can pull out three objectives.
- Reverse the momentum of the Taliban and deny al-Qaida a partner in Afghanistan
- Secure key population centers in-country including areas to the south and east
- Train up Afghan troops so they can provide security during and after the transition of U.S. and NATO military/police control
Again from the White House briefing yesterday…
… First of all, they aim to degrade the Taliban in order to provide time and space to develop Afghan capacity. Most directly, the Afghan capacity we’re developing are the Afghan security forces, so the army and the police. They also want to degrade the Taliban for a second purpose, and that is so that as we begin to hand off responsibility to the Afghan army and police, those emerging security forces are able to handle the Taliban because it’s at a diminished strength.
The other key task for the military, this additional 30,000 over the coming months, is to train and partner with the Afghan security forces to accelerate their development. The broad aim here is to open a new window of opportunity for Afghanistan and to create conditions to begin to transfer to Afghan responsibility by a date which the President will specify in his speech.
There are questions. First, can the number of troops deployed gain the trust of the Afghan tribal leaders and the people prior to July 2011? Second, will the Taliban remind tribal leaders NATO and the United States will be leaving soon and simply hide in the shadows?
They are after all, extremely patient. All they need to do is whisper in an ear or two … I know where you and your family live, so don’t even think about ratting me out to the infidels.
Doctor Zero, a frequent Hot Air Green Room contributor has a post that was just promoted into the regular line-up at Hot Air and he writes…
Obama’s Afghanistan speech last night would have been adequate for a department store manager, informing the staff that extra help would be hired for the big Going Out of Business sale next year. It wasn’t very inspiring as a war speech. Inspiration is very important in warfare. As a modern liberal with an academic background, Obama sees military operations as unpleasant administrative chores, to be resolved rather than won… but Afghanistan is more than a distraction from the fun industry-nationalizing, trillion-dollar aspects of the President’s job, and resolution is never as inspiring as victory.
Head over and read the entire post – pretty good analysis.
Others writing today …