Commentary Magazine


Has White House Misled Public About Troop Withdrawal?

Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard  zeroes in on what appears to be an effort by the White House to mislead the public about the President’s decision to withdraw more than 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by next September.

During a June 22 briefing on Afghanistan, a senior Administration aide told reporters, “The president’s decision was fully within the range of options that were presented to him and has the full support of his national security team.”

Now fast forward to yesterday, when Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, nominated to replace General David Petraeus as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that President Obama’s decision to draw down 10,000 troops by the end of this year and the rest of the surge forces by September 2012 was not one of the options proposed to the president by Gen. Petraeus.

In response to questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham,  Allen testified Obama’s decision on the pace and size of of Afghanistan withdrawals was “a more aggressive option than that which was presented.” Senator Graham then pressed for clarification. “My question is: Was that a option?” To which General Allen replied, “It was not.”

There are two things going on here.

One is the president’s “strategy” was essentially made up on the back of an envelope, divorced from military considerations, and based almost entirely on the politics of Obama’s re-election, all of which are disgraceful enough. Beyond that, though, the administration appears to have dissembled in order to justify the president’s decision, hoping to add the appearance of military support to his terribly unwise plan.

There may be a more innocent explanation for what happened. But the burden is now on the White House to reveal the full story. And I hope the press corps is as aggressive with Obama as they would have been with his predecessor on this matter. It’s a big deal.