As President Obama looks to further distance himself from the July 2011 drawdown date and officials insist more and more that the real “transition” to Afghan control will only begin in earnest in 2014, US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke seems to be reading from a difference script, or at least one that’s a few months out of date.
Speaking today to a group of journalists in Pakistan, Holbrooke insisted that the entire war effort would be over by the end of 2014, with all US and NATO combat troops out of the nation by then. He added that the troops will begin to leave in July.
President Obama announced the July 2011 drawdown in December, an effort to underscore to the public that his massive escalation of the Afghan War was going to be short-lived. Officials were rejecting the date as a political ploy within hours of the speech ending, and President Obama himself has publicly disavowed the date several times.
Some officials had clung to the 2011 date, at least when convenient, for months after President Obama had abandoned it, but it seems now that officials are fairly unified around the 2014 date as the beginning, not the end, of a transitional phase. Barring the possibility that Holbrooke’s comments reflect a massive, previously unannounced change of thought, it seems that his speech is likely still relying on old dates which were politically useful but have since been discarded.