Opinion Brief

Obama's 'rapid' Afghanistan withdrawal plan: The right call?

President Obama is opting for a speedier troop drawdown than many of his generals want — but slower than what many Americans are clamoring for  

On Wednesday night, President Obama announced that he is pulling 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year — 5,000 of them in July — and that all 33,000 "surge" troops will be home by the end of next summer. That will leave 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the middle of 2012. Obama's plan enforces a more rapid timetable than Gen. David Petraeus and other military leaders recommended, but for many war-weary Americans, the drawdown from this increasingly unpopular conflict may not be quick enough. Obama said Afghanistan will have full control of its own security by 2014, and that America won't "try to make Afghanistan a perfect place." But that thanks to our gains against the Taliban, "the tide of war is receding," and "it is time to focus on nation building at home." Is this a step in the right direction, or a stumble backwards?

Obama struck the right balance: By refusing to "embrace either the Full McCain Jacket or the impulse to just get the hell out of there ASAP," Obama has done the only rational thing, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. We've met our "core goals" — Osama bin Laden and half of al Qaeda's leaders are dead and discredited — and it's time to definitively wind down "the longest war in the history of America," and focus on our "desperate need of investment at home."
"'We stand not for empire'"

The president putting politics above victory: Obama's speech was cynically "aimed at re-election — not victory in Afghanistan," says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. Drawing down 10,000 troops this year isn't "in and of itself disastrous," but his insistence on being out by 2014, come hell or high water, is outrageous. It's time to see which GOP candidate "is serious about victory," and who is comfortable with "setting the speed record for retreat."
"For Obama, it's all about getting out of Afghanistan"

This is a "pivot point," for better or worse: The most important part of Obama's speech was redefining our mission, says Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. Instead of nation-building, we are now focused on the lesser goal of ensuring that Afghanistan "can't be turned again into a staging ground for terrorism." Obama's decision to basically declare victory and withdraw "is a gamble, but so are so many decisions in war."
"A pivot point in Afghanistan"

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