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Panetta Makes Afghanistan Drawdown Announcement Without President-Run AfPak Strategy Meeting?

6:38 PM, Feb 1, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Earlier today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the “The United States and NATO will seek to end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year and shift to a role of providing support and training to Afghan security forces,” the Washington Post reported. In other words, America will end combat operations a year earlier in Afghanistan.

Yet, at today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney said he doesn’t “believe for the last several months there has been a president-run AfPak strategy meeting or AfPak implementation meeting.”

Here’s the exchange from the official transcript:

Q    A follow-up on the—about the Situation Room meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I haven’t seen the readouts for seven months now.  Have that meeting stopped, or you’re not going to –

MR. CARNEY:  I do apologize, I haven’t looked into that.  There are regular discussions obviously about the implementation of the president’s Afghanistan policy.  I don’t believe for the last several months there has been a president-run AfPak strategy meeting or AfPak implementation meeting, but I will check on that for you.

It would seem odd that such a decision regarding war would be made without having a president-run AfPak strategy meeting. Some say, however, that Obama “seems determined to downsize as fast as possible,” regardless of conditions on the ground. As Max Boot writes:

The Obama administration seems to think it can stop American combat operations a year earlier than expected—in 2013—while also downsizing the Afghan Security Forces and still strike a peace deal with the Taliban. Only in some alternative universe is this a winning strategy. In the world we actually inhabit it is a recipe for a slow-motion—or maybe not so slow—catastrophe. 

It is hard to know exactly what the announcement that the U.S. is ending combat operations in 2013 means because the dividing line between “combat” and “advising” can be thin to the point of non-existent. But at the very least it signals some pull back of the American commitment. And before long I suspect we are going to hear that the number of U.S. troops—already insufficient—will be cut back some more so as to allow President Obama to run for reelection claiming to have ended one war and to be on his way to ending another. The Afghan Security Forces will be hard-pressed to pick up the slack, because they will need extensive training and support for years to come. The only way they will have any chance of success is if the U.S. maintains a substantial force in Afghanistan after 2014—say at least 40,000 troops. But that is highly unlikely if Obama stays in office. He seems determined to downsize as fast as possible.

Whole thing here.

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