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10 July 2016
I am probably the only person in the United States who actually likes the fact that President Obama set an 18 month timetable for the beginning of a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan in his speech on Tuesday night.
Republicans have been attacking it because they say that it sends a signal of weak resolve, and that the Taliban now know that they only have to wait us out. Opponents of our engagement ask why the drawdown can’t begin immediately, and wonder whether the deadline isn’t just a sop to them to make the escalation decision more palatable. It has all the hallmarks of a political compromise rather than a thought-out strategy.
I think that setting a date for the beginning of a withdrawal actually sends agood signal, but to very different audiences than either the Taliban on the one hand, or to dovish Americans on the other. The two most important targets are the US commanders on the ground, and the Afghan government.