It’s looking less and less likely that a serious troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will happen in 2011.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday that 2014 was the more realistic date for a drawdown.
“I think in summer of 2011 we can bring some troops home but we’re going to need a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan past that,” Graham told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour.
Graham said that 2014 “is the right date to talk about. That’s when [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai suggests that Afghans will be in the lead and I’m very pleased to hear President Obama talk about 2014.”
“What I want to talk about is winning. Having the ability to stabilize Afghanistan and be a good partner with the United States forever. That means we’re going to need military force for quite a while, post 2014 when the Afghans hopefully get in the lead,” Graham continued.
“It will be great to have a couple of air bases there in perpetuity to help the Afghans send the right signal to the regions,” he added.
But President Karzai told the Washington Post this weekend that he wants to see a scaling-back of the US war effort in Afghanistan.
The United States should end special operations forces raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency, Karzai said in an interview with the Post.
“The time has come to reduce military operations,” he told the paper.
At the same time Obama announced last year that he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, he also announced that a drawdown would begin in the summer of 2011.
“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011,” Obama said in a speech.
After winning back the House in November’s midterm elections, Republicans signaled that the president’s 2011 deadline would be a target.
“Republican Representative Buck McKeon, who was all but certain to be the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, signaled that the party would ensure that US forces have the ‘time” to achieve their goals,” AFP reported.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said last week that NATO should endorse Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s 2014 timetable for withdrawal.
Last Wednesday, the Obama administration began to de-emphasize the 2011 date.
This video is from ABC’s The Week, broadcast Nov. 14, 2010.
— With a report from AFP