May 31, 2020

Obama’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Plan

President Obama announced a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in a televised address to the nation on June 22, 2011. About 5,000 troops will pull out beginning in July and an additional 5,000 by the end of 2011. The rest of the troops ordered to Afghanistan by the Obama administration will return home before September 2012. As expected, criticism of this decision was swift and came from all areas of the political spectrum.

Obama's Afghanistan Withdrawal Plan

Some people said the withdrawal was too slow. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke for many when she said she wished the withdrawal “would happen sooner than the president laid out”. Others thought the withdrawal was too fast. Defense Secretary Gates and Sen. Lindsey Graham both felt that the withdrawal endangered the remaining troops and the gains that had been won at the cost of American lives.

The harshest criticism is perhaps the charge that this entire withdrawal is merely political theater and represents Obama’s opening act of the 2012 election. The President is certainly aware that the Taliban and Al Qaeda closely watched this speech along with the American people. Standard procedure during a war is to maintain secrecy about troop movements and only announce them publicly after their successful completion. President Obama was certainly warned of the risk of this public announcement but chose to make it anyway.

Some people believe that this can only be for political gain and that Obama can now campaign for his second term by saying that his troop surge worked and is so successful that he is bringing the troops home. He can appear to be a successful war time Commander-in-Chief as well as strong in foreign affairs. Critics also think that Obama is doing this so that he will also be able to say that he is working on reducing the budget deficit by slowing the expenditures in Afghanistan.

There is, however, a great risk to this publicly announced withdrawal. The Taliban have proven to be very good at surprise attacks in the past. They will easily determine which troops are to be withdrawn and can also attack those areas which are rendered vulnerable. If there is a significant increase in casualties because of the withdrawal before the election, President Obama will pay a very heavy political price at the election booths.

More press reactions to the withdrawal plan:

NY Times story about Obama’s withdrawal plan.

Washington Times

UK Guardian

Fox News

Atlantic Sentinel

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