WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES – AT 7:27 P.M. ET: We were being assured by the administration only hours ago, it seems, that the date to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011 was firm. That was BMc, before McChrystal and his now-famous flap. Suddenly, with Petraeus in the hot seat, the timelines they are a-changin'. From The Politico:
A day after replacing the top American general in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said Thursday that U.S. troops could remain in significant numbers in the country well after his withdrawal timeline begins next summer.
Though his plan calls for the start of a troop withdrawal in a year, “We did not say, starting in July 2011, suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan,” Obama said at a joint White House press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”
The answer was Obama’s clearest description of his timetable for bringing troops home from the war – a schedule many analysts felt was unrealistic with the Afghanistan conflict growing more violent and difficult to manage.
Obama’s answer seemed to run counter to the description of the Afghanistan troop-withdrawal timeline Vice President Joe Biden gave to author Jonathan Alter. In a recently-published book on Obama’s first year as president, Alter quotes Biden as saying, "in July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it."
Biden’s office, however, has since downplayed the statement, saying Biden had made a hurried, off-hand remark.
COMMENT: An off-hand remark from Joe Biden? Whoever heard of such a thing?
I suspect that there's a deal with Petraeus, who doesn't like to lose and is smart enough not to let himself be set up. Any smart guy would have demanded a guarantee that the Afghan rug wouldn't be pulled out from under him by an arbitrary withdrawal date.
But the left wing of the Democratic Party, some of whose members probably refer to Joe Stalin as Uncle Joe as a sign of affection, must be fuming. Like many 1930s Republicans, they've become isolationists in everything but name. But I doubt if they'd turn on Barack. I mean, who've they got? Ahmadinejad is Constitutionally ineligible.
June 24, 2010