When President Obama announced his massive December 2009 escalation of the Afghan War, it was sold to the American public with a pledge that it would be a short-term surge and would usher in the beginning of an exit from the country in July 2011.
The date was abandoned within hours of its announcement, though officials occasionally still referenced it now and again through the summer. The date is officially dead though, and the new, likewise largely fictional “drawdown” date for Afghanistan is 2014.
“The devastating truth is that US forces will be fighting in Afghanistan for at least four more years,” noted Council on Foreign Relations Presient Emeritus Leslie Gelb. The emphasis on this comment should be the “at least.”
Because while the US kept up the pretense of the 2011 date for longer than most, many NATO nations had already been trumpeting the 2014 date, and that date too has come under attack from a number of officials who expect the war to last well into the next decade.
But so long as officials insist on couching the drawdown date in terms of an elusive military victory, from 2011 to 2014 to 2020 these dates are little more than hopeful guesses from officials who refuse to notice that the war has already been lost. If one ties the withdrawal to the admission that the war is not successful from elected officials, it could well last forever.