Obama sounds forth the trumpet that will ever blow retreat:
WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to announce Wednesday evening that he will order the withdrawal of 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan this year, and another 20,000 troops, the remainder of the 2009 “surge,” by the end of next summer, according to administration officials and diplomats briefed on the decision. These troop reductions are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they reflect mounting political and economic pressures at home, as the president faces relentless budget pressures and an increasingly restive Congress and American public.
He will address the nation at 8 PM Eastern time. The suspense mounts as we wonder - will he declare that he is withdrawing troops faster than recommended by the Pentagon because conditions in Afghanistan have improved so dramatically? And will he manage a straight face if he says that? (I envision more laughter/applause confusion.)
The Times suggests that Joe Biden, who never supported the Afghanistan surge, is finally carrying the day:
In announcing the withdrawals, which represent about 30 percent of current American troop strength in the country, Mr. Obama will fulfill a pledge he made in December 2009. At that time, he coupled the deployment of 30,000 additional troops with a promise to begin winding down America’s engagement by the middle of this year. Still, the speed and scope of this plan is striking.
It amounts to a broad rethinking of the military’s troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that Mr. Obama adopted 18 months ago after a painstaking review. Officials have indicated that the administration now plans to place more emphasis on focused counterterrorism operations of the kind that killed Osama bin Laden — which the president is expected to cite as Exhibit A for a substantial American drawdown.
Biden's notion, described in detail in Woodward's "Obama's Wars", is that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were allies of convenience rather than ideological partners back in the 90's. Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban has no global aspirations or inclination to inflict terror on the US. Back in 2001 they offered safe haven to Al Qaeda, so we overthrew their government, and here we are. But Al Qaeda is now operaing out of the tribal areas of Pakistan on the Afghanborder, not to mention Yemen and Somalia. So, Biden argued, rather than trying to turn Afghanistan into Luxembourg, we should focus on deterring Al Qaeda from migrating back into Afghanistan.
The Times reviews Obama's Afghanistan strategy here.