Don’t know if I cosign everything in Boot’s post, but he’s right that Vice President Biden is absolutely misleading when he says that the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan in 2014 come “hell or high water.” That’s simply not what the Lisbon NATO conference agreed to do. And if it is, someone needs to tell Lt. General Caldwell.
One interpretation here is that Biden is trying to shift the reality of what the policy is, or at least influence the contours of decisions not entirely etched in stone. Andrew Exum chides Biden for poor message discipline. But a different — and less charitable — way to put it is that the Obama administration is simply telling two different audiences two different things, and leaves it up to you to determine which audience it’s addressing for saying it’ll leave and which it’s addressing for saying it’ll stay. It’s easy enough to say, “We will withdraw the bulk of our combat troops from Afghanistan after 2014 but leave behind some residual force for residual counterterrorism and training missions, which shall underscore our enduring political commitment to Afghanistan.” And yet that isn’t what they’re saying. It’s hard to be charitable after a certain point.