President Barack Obama will reportedly announce tonight that he is going to reduce our current 100,000 troop level in Afghanistan by 30,000 — by November 2012. That date may seem familiar. It is the next election day.
Like many who have been critical of this war, this strikes me a too little and too late. Do not mistake me. I am happy to see a one-third withdrawal, but this would just reduce levels to the personnel levels before the “surge.” No one imagined we would still be in the country, at alone with 70,000 troops, in 2012. We will still be gushing billions of dollars for a country that is openly hostile to the United States and has accused the U.S. of stealing money and destroying their nation.
These numbers will be a mix of combat and non-combat troops. The Pentagon wanted non-combat troops only but Obama at least held the line on that point and ordered some combat troops to be included.
Under the plan, 10,000 troops will be withdrawn by the end of this year. Secretary Bob Gates and Afghan war commander Gen. David Petraeus wanted a drawdown of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops this year — and no combat troops.
However, the public is increasing angry over the wars and polls show a many citizens want to be entirely out of Afghanistan. Nearly three-quarters of Americans polled this month said they support the United States pulling some or all of its forces from Afghanistan. With the unpopularity of the latest war in Libya, Obama is paying a high political price for continuing to spend billions at a time when he is calling for cuts in domestic programs.
The timing of the withdrawal with the November election is remarkably dumb. It conveys a connection between Obama’s political strategy and the war. This war has been grinding on for years despite growing opposition. Yet, the Administration picks November 2012 as when it will finally call for a partial withdrawal. That decision only came after every polls shows the President losing votes on the issue. The appearance is one of a cynical calculation with lives in the balance. This may be unfair and the date is a total coincidence but the optics are perfectly horrible.