The editors of National Review write that Obama "needs to walk back his deadline by making it clear that next July is the date for a review of the current strategy rather than its necessary endpoint."
Afghans are masters of hedging their bets, and Pres. Hamid Karzai is hedging his. Who can blame him? After an agonizingly long period of deliberation, President Obama approved an Afghan surge with an expiration date of July 2011 attached.
That’s when Obama said we’d “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan.” For Obama, stuffed full of cautionary tales about LBJ and Vietnam, that was a clever way to limit his commitment and to placate his anti-war base. For the region, it was a disastrous signal communicating a lack of resolve and staying power. It gave the Taliban yet more reason to believe that they can outlast us and Karzai more reason to consider his options if we leave precipitously. In that event, he basically has three choices — get killed, flee the country, or reach a desperation-driven deal with the Taliban and the Pakistanis. He’s showing an understandable inclination toward preparing the ground for the last of these.
President Obama needs to walk back his deadline by making it clear that next July is the date for a review of the current strategy rather than its necessary endpoint. In his West Point speech, Obama said he’d take “account of conditions on the ground.” If he does that now, he’ll realize the folly of July as the harddeadline for the beginning of the transition to the Afghans.