Obama will make a public decision on an initial draw-down of troops in Afghanistan in the next few weeks. On one end, we have Defense Secretary Gates, General Petraeus, and – officially now – the military as a whole, all pressuring Obama to maintain the surge level of troops (approximately 100,000) until November 2012. WSJ:
The military is asking President Barack Obama to hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012, in a proposal that would keep a large portion of the 33,000 extra forces in the country through the next two warm-weather fighting seasons.
The military seeks to avoid a scenario in which large numbers of troops are pulled out during the heaviest period of militant activity next year, just as it hopes to be focusing on the violent eastern provinces bordering Pakistan.
Nearly half the Senate Democratic Conference, including 10 committee chairmen, sent a letter to President Obama pressing him to shift his strategy in Afghanistan and begin a major drawdown of troops.
Those 24 senators were joined by one Independent and two members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, all of them urging the president to make significant policy changes as Obama’s self-imposed July deadline for a troop drawdown approaches.
“We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011,” the lawmakers wrote Wednesday.
Obama is likely to do whatever is most likely to save him face. Unfortunately, that probably means keeping troop levels as they are, or pulling out a mere 3-5,000 as some have suggested. For one, he gets to publicly do the politically safe thing which is side with the military (something the Republicans can’t hammer him on in the upcoming election). Secondly, if he pulled out and violence persists, that’s a harm politically for his campaign; he would be cast as losing the war. If he keeps the surge going and violence remains overwhelmingly high as it is right now, he can say “but it’d be worse if we had left.”
We’re in a world where lives are lost and tyranny persists merely so the American political elite can win elections. It’s very cynical, indeed.