President Obama plans to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, but, with a surge underway to combat a growing insurgency, it remains unclear how quickly the U.S. can bring its forces home. Gen. David Petraeus, Obama's new commander in the Afghan war, has begun clarifying the policy, saying that the military won't be able to order soldiers out all at once. "You thin out," Petraeus says in an interview with Wired. "You don’t just hand over." Petraeus says he supports Obama's plan, but will the pace of the withdrawal be too slow for an increasingly impatient public? (Watch Petraeus indicate he could scrap the deadline)
Americans want a significant withdrawal next summer: The biggest question about Obama's Afghanistan policy has been how long it will take to bring the troops home, says Chris Good at The Atlantic, and Petraeus is making it clear the pace will be excruciatingly slow. But with the 62 percent of the U.S. public now opposed to the war, "there will be plenty of pressure" on Obama to accelerate things.
"Will Petraeus's plan withstand political reality?"
Petraeus' message is reassuring: With pessimism growing over this war, it's soothing to hear Gen. Petraeus saying "Afghanistan can be stabilized," says John Guardiano at FrumForum. It's true that Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy may require keeping significant fighting forces there for five more years — but it's worth it in the long run.
"Petraeus pushes back on Afghan deadline"
This puts a new burden on Obama: If Gen. Petraeus says "the only safe exit strategy" is a very, very slow one, it's up to President Obama to explain to the skeptics why that's what we have to do, say the editors of The Washington Post. "He needs to do so not once, not twice, but repeatedly."
"Making the case for success in Afghanistan"