With the Afghan War getting worse all the time it may seem like putting the cart before the horse for the administration to start talking about a timetable for its victory and pullout, but with the war’s popularity cratering all the time it seems the president believes that selling the escalation as an “endgame” strategy is about the only viable public relations strategy possible.
So tonight, President Obama tried to sell the American public on a 30,000 man escalation of the Afghan War with vague assurances that he hopes the escalation will go so swimmingly that he can begin pulling those troops out in July 2011.
Whether this is collective amnesia amongst administration officials who failed to notice that March’s 21,000 man escalation only made matters worse or a shrewd political move designed to placate a war weary public, the comparisons to Iraq cannot possibly be avoided, and were even made directly by the president.
Particularly in length, as both those “start the pullout in July 2011” claim and the promise to be out of Afghanistan by 2017 came after the administration’s last meeting on Afghanistan and must therefore be seen as part of the same strategy.
This likely spells a glacial pace “drawdown” in Afghanistan, even assuming the escalation can be painted as a success. America’s 2007 surge in Iraq was declared a success by Summer 2007, and only now, on the eve of 2010 are troops at pre-surge levels, with administration officials forever non-committal about meeting the August 2010 goal, let alone the 2011 deadline.
Yet the 2007 “success” in Iraq was largely a function of ethnic and religious cleansing of neighborhoods leading to a drop in violence, something which the administration won’t stumble into in Afghanistan.
Rather in this case the six year drawdown may be more aimed at quieting domestic dissent, as the public appears to have forgotten entirely about Iraq the moment the vague, multi-year drawdown strategy was said to begin, rising violence and enormous American military commitments be damned.