Once again, military officials are trying to move the goalposts on the Afghanistan war.
In his December 1, 2009 speech at West Point, President Obama was crystal clear: American troops would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011:
But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.
Yet, at a January 21, 2010 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, General Petraeus tried to move the goalposts, asserting that in August 2011 U.S. forces would begin to transfer tasks to Afghan forces, a clear rollback of the President’s statement that U.S. troops would begin to withdraw by July 2011.
You can see this sort of fudging in the Defense Department’s article on the CSIS event:
The training and fielding of increased numbers of capable Afghan soldiers and police also plays a big role in McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan, as U.S. forces are slated to begin transferring security responsibilities to Afghan security forces in July 2011, dependent upon conditions on the ground.
“Transferring security responsibilities” is not the same as “transferring our troops out of Afghanistan.” This subtle attempt to reset public expectations is something that must be stamped out. The president was clear that our forces would begin coming home in July 2011. Only the pace was open for discussion based on his West Point remarks.
To meet the President’s stated policy of withdrawing troops in July 2011, such a transfer of tasks must begin before July 2011. Without a concrete exit plan, policymakers and military leaders will continue to move the goalposts on the Afghanistan war. Sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition asking the President to provide a concrete exit plan in his State of the Union address.