Obama Disavows July 2011 Afghan Drawdown Date

Insists Date Just the 'Beginning of a Transition Phase'

Though it is hard to imagine that eight and a half years in anything the Obama Administration could do with regards to the Afghan War would constitute a “hasty exit,” President Obama attempted to reassure again today that this would not happen, in comments which formally disavowed the July 2011 drawdown date he set himself in December.

We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights,” Obama insisted, adding that “we said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.

Officials have been dismissing the July 2011 date as largely meaningless in the first place, but President Obama has avoided comment on it, since his announcement of the most recent escalation in December.

Actually what President Obama said was that the US would begin to “start the pullout” in July 2011 at the time, and Vice President Biden was sticking with that story as recently as last week, saying that a “whole lot of people” would be moving out in July.

Biden’s comments were quickly disavowed by a number of officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Since Gen. David Petraeus was tapped to head the war yesterday, it has been expected that the date would be quickly disavowed, as President Obama did.

The date was little but an excuse to convince opponents of the surge to withhold judgement on the war at any rate, but its new role as the “beginning of a transition phase” has downgraded it to complete irrelevance, as officials have been claiming for years that they have been encouraging the Afghan government to take “more and more responsibility” to no real effect.

European nations which have attempted to put realistic timetables on the war have predicted several more decades of conflict on a number of fronts. The reality however is that there is no end in sight on this war, and even ridiculously far-sighted dates are just guesses of when the war will, for some reason, stop getting worse and start getting better. The evidence suggests that every escalation will just make matters worse, and officials have no strategy other than more escalation, making the prospect of such a turn-around unlikely, at best.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.