Obama Afghanistan speech recap – skepticism, doubt and uncertainty

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?

The Mission
Some will argue the mission is loosely defined, but from the speech, we can pull out three objectives.

  1. Reverse the momentum of the Taliban and deny al-Qaida a partner in Afghanistan
  2. Secure key population centers in-country including areas to the south and east
  3. 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 …

9 replies
  1. donh
    donh says:

    The speech was very predictable. However, I am  dismayed at the level of support coming from the Bush old guard.  This is clearly a bi partisian face saving operation to retreat and fool the public into thinking we are trying our best to win. I expect Obama to fake a war on terror.  Shame on the Bush people for their Pontius Pilate hand washing of a lost war . When the UK withdrew  its  rule over  India,  a kaotic  separation of Pakistan cost a million lives. I fear the New World Order club is severly underestimating the price in human suffering that will be paid for   a terrorist victory in Afganistan . We are now shadow boxing a paper war   as puppet theatre while the ground positions are left to wither from wispered orders to let Afganistan fail. Washington does not care if we lose Afganistan as long as defeat is accomplished in an honorable  manner that makes  the President look good .

  2. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    Obama's primary problem is that for him, every solution is, and must be, a political one.  The war, health insurance reform, cap and trade, you name it: every one of these issues is seen through a political lens, or worse, a campaign lens.  This is where his inexperience shows.  He just doesn't know when to stop campaigning.  What happened to "we won" Obama?  Bush and Clinton realized that, despite their allegiances to their parties, they were still the president of the whole country.  Obama, for all of his purported intelligence, can't seem to grasp that concept, and because of that, I fear that many soldiers and Afghanis will die unnecessarily because of this.


    Dirty Harry Callahan put it best: "a man's got to know his limitations".  Obama has to learn his.  He still believes his own BS.  That makes him dangerous.

  3. Erik Blazynski
    Erik Blazynski says:

    the only time you should set a withdrawal date is when that date is TODAY. I watched part of the speech, it was verbose. The story could have been told in 10 minutes. Stop wasting my time Obama. As a person who thinks that we just need to get the hell out I take exception to his assertion that I do not know history. Ok, so maybe I don't know everything about history, but I don't need to. It is inherently obvious to me based on accounts from people that have spent time in the region and understand the LOCAL CULTURE, that this war is NOT winnable. We lose, forget about saving face and get the hell out. Also "win" or "get the job done"  is not defined. This is paramount to ANY and EVERY successful project that a team engages in, all of the players need a shared vision. Second, the conditions in Afganistan prohibit US dominance, well, short of nuke attacks.

    I hear Jim talk on the radio about not agreeing with the president but still supporting him. Can you fully explain this logic? It does not make any sense to me and you have dropped that statement several times without explaining it.  It seem flip floppy to me to say such things. Hopefully I will have time to call and ask him.

  4. gillie28
    gillie28 says:

    Erik, your preference of "getting the hell out," is certainly understandable, but would have long-lasting, disastrous results for the US and the west.  It's an awful situation with no good options, especially with a wimpy President and a Congress that bends over backwards to placate evil.  

    Let's not forget why we went in there in the first place. The Taliban harbored and nurtured Al-Qaidad and would surely return to power if we left.  If this isn't there objective, then why are they fighting us??? 

    Knowing history and the culture includes understanding that force, might and power are highly respected in that region. Those who "win" against the US would become folk heroes and would attract even more recruits to Al-Qaida. 

    I've always said that the US should have ignored Pakistan and gone and cleaned out that border area where Al-Qaida, Bin-Laden, Al Zawkari et al are protected.  Doing WHATEVER IS NECESSARY, with the least US casualties, with whatever that involves.  Pakistan is suspect in their loyalites, and hasn't done the job they agreed to 8 years ago.  Wars aren't pretty, and we have tiptoed around being "nice" long enough.  Either do it properly, or like Erik says, "get the hell out" and be prepared for awful consequences.

  5. Erik Blazynski
    Erik Blazynski says:

    what are these awful consequences that you speak of? Terror training in afganistan? How about this. We have technology to read a license plate with a satellite. Hire 1000 people to monitor a 50 sq. mile section of Afganistan. Where terror training cells pop up you drop a couple of bombs and put an end to it.  This is the only way to stop them. This crap about more troops is ridiculous.

  6. gillie28
    gillie28 says:

    yeah, well, I actually agree, only my suggestion was always to bomb the border area where they are holed up….save paying 1000 people to monitor…go deal with the source rather than band-aidingthe problem.

  7. donh
    donh says:

    We lost this war because of the clear , hold and BUILD strategy. Clear and hold yes, but the BUILD part is where the cost, casualty, delay and corruption enters the theatre. War should never be about multi billion dollar contracts to pour  cement and wire electricity. Nobody in Patton's army stopped to build schools as they bulged into Germany.  All we  constructed were targets for terror vandalism. Our rules of engagement prevent a  clearing of enemies. Our commitment for victory is too lacking to hold what we clear. Our eager wish to win and get the hell out returns our gains back into the  arms of muslim barbarians who shoot us in the back as we walk out the door.

  8. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    Things you won't see in the domestic media: Der Spiegel Online "Searching in Vain for the Obama Magic" (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,664753,00.html).  At least the Europeans can see this guy for what he is.  Or at least are allowed to.


    Gems like "It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics", and "The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself" abound in this piece.


    A priceless read.

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