David Ignatius makes an important observation about Obama’s announced schedule for a troop surge in Afghanistan:
I asked Lt Gen. David Rodriquez, the No. 2 US commander here, in a briefing tonight how long the deployment of the extra 30,000 would take. He answered that “it will happen between nine and eleven months,” starting in January 2010. Which means that some troops might not arrive until November 2010. The next month after that, December 2010, is when Obama plans to assess how well the troops are doing — so he can decide how many to pull out when the withdrawal begins in July 2011. That doesn’t give him much time to make good decisions. Am I the only person who worries that “fuzzy math” is being used here?
It seems that the super-speedy troop buildup that Obama wanted and the corresponding 18-month deadline don’t have much to do with military reality. Ignatius explains: “As Rodriguez said in tonight’s briefing, you can move people only so fast into a landlocked battlefield half a world away from the U.S. McChrystal’s original finishing point for adding 40,000 troops was March 2011. Now it has been ‘rushed’ to November 2010 for 30,000 troops.” So before you know it, we’ll be up against a July 2011 date, when pressure will build to begin to draw down the troops. And the president, at least the 60 Minutes version, seems to take that date somewhat seriously.
All this suggests that the troop schedule has less to do with military strategy and much more to do with assuring the Left (and the president himself) that this really is a limited commitment and that we’ll be out soon enough, with resources freed up to do what they really want — continue the ultra-liberal domestic agenda. Conservatives are hoping it’s all meaningless, that reality will once again force Obama’s hand, and that if it really takes longer to get the troops there, the date will simply slide. Maybe. But domestic opponents of the war will be ready to pounce come July 2011, and Obama may be hard-pressed to explain that he really didn’t mean exactly what he said. Meanwhile, those in Pakistan and Afghanistan deciding which side to align themselves with will continue to wonder whether America intends to stick it out when progress is slow and casualties mount.