With much of the attention focused on President Obama’s plan to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, there’s also the matter of when those troops will be able to come home.
In the same speech in which he announced the troop buildup last Tuesday, Obama also said that U.S. forces would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011.
Since that time, members of the president’s defense team have made it clear that only a handful of U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by that date, and that the plan is less an exit strategy than a gradual transition.
“2011 is not a cliff, it’s a ramp,” said Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser. “And it’s when the effects of this increase will be, by all accounts, according to our military commanders and our senior civilians, where we will be able to see very, very visible progress and we’ll be able to make a shift.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that American troops could have a significant role in Afghanistan for another two to four years. He said further departures would come only when American commanders on the ground assessed that local conditions had sufficiently improved.
The withdrawal date, Gates and others have said, was meant to signal to Afghanistan and others that America’s commitment was not open-ended. The U.S. has been fighting in the country for eight years
Some Republicans have been critical of the specific withdrawal date, saying it will encourage Taliban and al-Qaida forces to outwait the U.S.
What do you think of the timetable for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan?