It’s good to finally have a plan, and the goal of preparing the Afghans to secure their own country is probably the most realistic one since we are already eight years into the war. But can we possibly expect to reach that goal in just 18 months, when today Afghan President Karzai is known as “the mayor of Kabul” because his government and army are so weak and ineffectual?
Is there any reason to believe that the Taliban and al Qaeda will do anything other than batten down the hatches, knowing that they’ve already survived the vast majority of the war?
I tend to agree with Sen. John McCain’s assessment that this is the right decision, but that announcing a date for withdrawal may well fatally wound the strategy. I take Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s point that there is some flexibility in the summer 2011 timetable for beginning our withdrawal — but I also understand that, just over a year before President Obama seeks re-election, there will be political pressure for that withdrawal to be quick, and completed sometime in 2012. I agree with McCain that if you’re going to have a strategy, the time for withdrawal is when that strategy has been fulfilled successfully. Otherwise, bring the troops home now.
I also understand that the Karzai government may need some prodding, but I don’t know why we couldn’t have done that behind closed doors — where most of the prodding will still have to take place anyway — rather than publicly announcing the withdrawal timeline.
Someone explain to me why it’s wise to set a deadline so publicly.