BRASS WORRIES – AT 8:52 A.M. ET: In a surprisingly straightforward piece, The New York Times reports that military leaders are analysts are seriously worried by President Obama's new withdrawal strategy for Afghanistan:
On Afghanistan’s battlefields, the most significant effect of President Obama’s latest orders will be felt at this time next year, when as many as 23,000 American troops who would have been on missions at the peak of the summer fighting season will instead be packing for home.
This will make it more difficult, if not impossible, military experts said, for the commanders to carry out one of their major goals for next year.
It's pretty clear that meeting objectives wasn't the highest goal for the president.
Senior officers said their military campaign plan for 2012 envisioned building on security gains earned by troops who had already flowed into Afghanistan’s south and southwest, with plans to turn some of those areas over to local forces. This would have freed American troops to pivot toward the vulnerable eastern border with Pakistan, but these forces may now be sent home.
Mr. Obama’s plan, announced Wednesday, has two stages. In the first, the United States will withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of this year, or about double what the military had desired. In the second, 20,000 additional troops, the remainder of the 2009 surge, will be withdrawn by the end of next summer.
“Bringing 10,000 out by December is more than the military wanted, and quicker than the military wanted, but it is doable without any major impact on the ground plan this year,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who retired from the Army in 2006 after serving as the senior American commander in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.
“But putting a September 2012 expiration tag on the rest of the surge raises real concerns,” added General Barno, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research center. “That’s the middle of the fighting season.”
COMMENT: I wonder whether the plan announced by Mr. Obama last night will actually be carried out. What if conditions on the ground change? Since we've now given the enemy our schedule, he practically has a script for disrupting our plans and embarrassing the president.
This story is far from over.
June 23, 2011