President Barack Obama’s speech announcing that the 33,000 “surge” troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by “summer” 2012 indicates that he has given priority to the interests of the military and the Pentagon over concerns by key officials in his administration over the impact of the war’s costs on domestic socioeconomic needs.
And in a section of the speech that must be interpreted in the context of his past policy decisions on Iraq, Obama appeared to support the desire of Defence Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus to keep a substantial number of combat troops in Afghanistan beyond the publicly announced “transition” in 2014.
Gates and Petraeus got most of what they wanted from Obama in regard to the withdrawal of the “surge” troops.
Petraeus had argued that he needed two more full “fighting seasons” with the bulk of the surge troops still remaining in the country to wear down the Taliban before the start of the “transition” in 2014, according to a report in The Guardian.
Published reports had indicated that Petraeus wanted the withdrawal next month to be limited to 5,000 troops. Obama said the first phase of the withdrawal would consist of 10,000 troops to start in July but would be completed only at the end of the year.
The Obama decision gives Petraeus the first full season with all or almost all of the troops he had wanted.
Petraeus’s preferred option was to delay the withdrawal of the bulk of the remaining surge troops until the end of 2012, but he got most of the second fighting season with troop levels that were well within his recommendations, according to a briefing for reporters by senior officials.