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July 2011 “Withdrawal” From Afghanistan to Include Four Troops, One Damaged Field Medical Kit

Joe Biden played down expectations for the celebrated July 2011 “inflection point” in Afghanistan by lowering the bar on the number of troops that may leave the country in the first phase to an almost comical number.

As few as “a couple of thousand” U.S. troops may leave Afghanistan in the first phase of withdrawing forces from there beginning a year from now, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“It could be as few as a couple of thousand troops; it could be more,” Biden told ABC’s “This Week.” […] calling the July 2011 withdrawal date “the beginning of a transition” based on the ability of Afghanistan forces to provide security around the country.

You get the sense that these guys are petrified to be left with no wars to fight and no toughness to display. The raising of conditions and tempering of numbers of troops to withdraw has turned the “inflection point” into a point of meaninglessness. You can only find 4 in 10 Americans who think this war worth the costs, and that has even emboldened political leaders to speak out, though in opposite directions. Jim Webb has called specifically for an endpoint to operations in Afghanistan, while Dick Lugar’s concern seems more focused on keeping the 2011 date as mushy as possible, saying that withdrawing any troops at that time could ruin… whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing there.

In six months, the president expects a review by his commanders on the status of our efforts in Afghanistan. This review presumably would determine the shape of an expected transition of responsibilities to Afghan security forces in July 2011. But absent a major realignment on the ground, it is unrealistic to expect that a significant downsizing of U.S. forces could occur at that time without security consequences. This conclusion is reinforced by recent GAO and Inspector General reports that have raised deep concerns over the viability and quality of training for the Afghan National Army and police.

I don’t think that Congress will find much of a backbone on this. Those supposedly predisposed to break with the DC wisdom of more wars and occupations, like Rand Paul, don’t want to talk about the war. And the only media figures showing any Cronkite-like backbone in speaking the truth about the war are people like Rachel Maddow, who in our fractured media landscape doesn’t command the universal attention she deserves, especially on this issue.

Many of us don’t see the point in keeping on with this war because of walking some imagined tightrope between acting “tough” and acting smart. A hundred or less Al Qaeda in the region do not provide enough of a reason to spend a decade putting together the pieces of a puzzle that simply does not fit.

P.S. It may well be that Mullah Omar is issuing calls on targeting women, but it sure is convenient to have it come out from US intelligence sources when public opinion on the war sits at a low ebb.

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David Dayen

David Dayen