T Minus Two Years

By Alter, Jonathan | Newsweek, July 12, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

T Minus Two Years


Alter, Jonathan, Newsweek


Byline: Jonathan Alter

Believe the president on Afghanistan.

Last veterans day, Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus had a polite but pointed exchange in the White House Situation Room. The president wanted to know why the Pentagon needed 21 months to send 40,000 troops to Afghanistan when it had taken only six months to send a similar number to Iraq in 2007. When Petraeus began to explain--saying that the Afghanistan escalation wasn't modeled on his surge in Iraq--Obama cut in with a wry reminder that, yes, in at least one sense, the two missions were the same. Petraeus was expected to work his magic in each, and in roughly the same amount of time.

The Obama-Petraeus relationship is now central to the war in Afghanistan (where last week Petraeus replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal). But it's by no means a comfortable dynamic for either man. "The only way we'll consider this [continuing the war with more troops] is if we get the troops in and out in a shorter time frame," Obama told Petraeus and other advisers in the room that day.

A shorter time frame. From the moment the president announced his plan to start pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, the Pentagon and its allies (including Hillary Clinton) have tried to fuzz up the timetable. Contingencies must always be accounted for, but to hear the chatter from military officers, you would think that the intentions of the president and the vice president don't mean much. It's naive, we're told by the wise guys on cable TV, to believe we'll be withdrawing from Afghanistan any time soon.

There's only one problem with betting the smart money on a long commitment: it's not so smart. Obama has said that we won't "turn out the lights" in Afghanistan in July 2011; and, indeed, some residual forces will be there for decades. But my reporting during the last several months suggests that a significant withdrawal will begin within, at the most, 18 months to two years.

There are at least three reasons--military, financial, and -political--to take the president at his word that the current commitment of 100,000 troops will be of short duration.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham keep pushing Petraeus on whether he truly supports Obama's policy. They use Joe Biden's quote to me ("In July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

T Minus Two Years
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?