Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Latest News

September 23rd, 2010 6:55 PM

Mixed messages from Obama, Petraeus on Afghanistan pullout

President Obama has called for an Afghanistan exit strategy with no 'wiggle room' and a July 2011 troop withdrawal. General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, has been less firm on the date.

WASHINGTON - Even as new disclosures reveal that President Obama was leaning hard on the Pentagon to come up with an exit strategy for Afghanistan with no “wiggle room,” US troops on the ground are increasingly seeking out just that.

As they make their case, soldiers tend to point to the directives of their commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, rather than their commander-in-chief, on the topic of a July, 2011 deadline that the President set earlier this year for beginning the pullout of US troops from the country.

This deadline was one that, according to investigative reporter Bob Woodward’s new book, the president felt compelled to put in place in a classified six-page “terms sheet” – the result of his reported growing frustration at being boxed in by the Pentagon’s push for more US troops in Afghanistan. It came, too, on the heels of Vice President Joe Biden’s warnings that a large escalation would mean America would be “locked into Vietnam.”

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling his aides. “It’s in our national interest. There can’t be any wiggle room.”

Ultimately, the president agreed to send a surge of 30,000 more US troops to the country – troops that are all in place as of this month – contingent on a plan to begin pulling some of them out in July, 2011. These troop levels fell short of the upwards of 40,000 more troops for which many senior officials in the Pentagon were lobbying.

But on the ground in Afghanistan today, US troops seem to be largely dismissing the July, 2011 withdrawal date, pointing, as they make their case, to their commander in Afghanistan. “What General Petraeus stated – and I agree with him – is that July, 2011 is not the start of withdrawal; it’s the start of talking about transition,” Col. Sean Mulholland, deputy commander of forces in northern Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters in a briefing Tuesday.

“I don’t see US troops drawing down anywhere in Afghanistan until General Petraeus gives us the order.”

For his part, Petraeus has noted on more than one occasion in Congressional testimony that though he understands the president’s desire to set a withdrawal date, it was not his idea.

“Was there a recommendation from you or anyone in the military that we set a date of July, 2011?” Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona asked at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in June.

“There was not,” Petraeus said. Senator McCain continued, “There was not – by any military person that you know of?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Petraeus answered.

This exchange was remarkably similar to a back-and-forth between Petraeus and McCain in congressional testimony earlier this month.

Gen. Petraeus also seemed to highlight the political nature of the decision. “The president has to be interested in fiscal considerations, political considerations, diplomatic considerations,” Petraeus noted at the June hearing, appearing to emphasize that he was more good soldier than avid supporter of the plan. “I don’t find it unusual to have, again, something inserted that was not from the bottom up.”

President Obama has seemed to bow to growing pressure from his military advisors and GOP critics who contend that a firm withdrawal date emboldens America’s enemies in Afghanistan. "We did not say starting in July 2011 suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan," Obama said in a June 24 press conference. “We said we'd begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility."

NATO Secretary General has recently begun speaking about a “transition dividend” in which troops may not be send home, but simply moved to more hostile locations within Afghanistan.

Petraeus, for his part, said in his June testimony that though he agrees with July, 2011 as a date in which to begin assessing the transition, US troops will be needed in Afghanistan for “quite some time.”

Back in Afghanistan, US troops are taking the cue. “No one said that we are withdrawing in July 2011,” Col. Mulholland told reporters. “I stated that there won’t be any withdrawal in July 2011 – that General Petraeus has stated that that is the mark to start talking and planning about transition. So there is no – not going to be a withdrawal in July 2011.”

In response to perplexed Pentagon reporters who pointed out that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that there would be withdrawal of some American troops by July, 2011, Mulholland remained firm.

“What Secretary Gates said I can’t comment on. All I know is what our commander said… and I think in General Petraeus’ mind it’s – July, 2011 is a mark to start planning about withdrawal,” Mulholland said. “It doesn’t mean that troops will start moving in July, 2011. That’s how I read it.”

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles