January surprise: We’re ending our combat mission in Afghanistan a year early, says Panetta

posted at 9:57 pm on February 2, 2012 by Allahpundit

This makes twice in 24 hours that the SecDef has telegraphed a hugely consequential military decision to the enemy. Either (a) he’s a moron, (b) he’s lying for strategic advantage, or (c) he has something else in mind. I don’t think he’s a moron and I can’t fathom what the strategic advantage to this might be. If you’re desperate to get the Taliban to the bargaining table, the last thing you’d want to do is tell them that they’ll have to wait us out in the field for even less time than they had planned.

So he must have something else in mind.

A senior European NATO diplomat in Brussels, for example, told Reuters that Panetta had “not said explicitly that the U.S. will end its combat role in 2013. There will be a shift, but he hasn’t said when the shift will end.” Afghan security officials were also surprised by the remarks, with a senior Afghan security official telling the wire service that “throws out the whole transition plan.”

“Transition has been planned against a timetable and this makes us rush all our preparations,” the official said. “If the Americans withdraw from combat, it will certainly have an effect on our readiness and training, and on equipping the police force.”

Still, Panetta’s comment was no accident. It highlights an emerging shift in the White House’s overall war strategy, which will also provide the Obama administration with a potent new talking point as the 2012 presidential race kicks into a higher gear

“It will certainly help with the Democratic base, but a lot of Republicans and independents are also tired of Afghanistan,” said Chris Harris of American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC supporting the Obama reelection campaign. “Obama can say ‘I promised to take the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan, turn things around there, and then wind down the war,’ and then say that he’s keeping that promise.”

Go look at some of the recent polls on Afghanistan. Last month Pew found that 56 percent want the troops out ASAP, a figure unchanged since last summer. In November, CNN found opposition to the war at 63 percent. Even so, I’m mighty curious to hear how The One is planning to make the big “I turned things around” pitch given that Panetta’s little bombshell dropped on the very day that wire services were running this:

The U.S. military said in a secret report that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw, raising the prospect of a major failure of Western policy after a costly war…

“The classified document in question is a compilation of Taliban detainee opinions,” [a NATO spokesman] said. “It’s not an analysis, nor is it meant to be considered an analysis.”

Nevertheless, it could be interpreted as a damning assessment of the war, dragging into its 11th year and aimed at blocking a Taliban return to power.

It could also be seen as an admission of defeat and could reinforce the view of Taliban hardliners that they should not negotiate with the United States and President Hamid Karzai’s unpopular government while in a position of strength.

According to the BBC, the report also describes “unprecedented interest” by Afghans, including members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban over the past year, plus of course the requisite acknowledgment that Pakistan is deep, deep, deep in cahoots with the Taliban leadership. (A memorable quote from an Al Qaeda prisoner: “The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad.”) I’m unclear on the exact timeline here, but I assume the NATO report was leaked in response to what Panetta said about early withdrawal, to nudge hawks into making the case that leaving sooner rather than later would be an exceedingly bad idea right now. The alternative, that NATO brass leaked the report precisely in order to convince people that the war is unwinnable and therefore we should take Panetta’s advice, is too unhappy to contemplate.

But maybe it’s the only call left. The best defense of Panetta’s early withdrawal talk that I’ve seen is James Joyner’s short piece at the Atlantic arguing that the war now seems like a lost cause, in which case we might as well save American lives by giving up in 2013 instead of in 2014. On the other hand, if this is chiefly a political pander aimed at handing Obama an “I’m bringing the troops home” line for the campaign, then maybe the coming withdrawal will be cosmetic only. The public has tuned out of following the war day to day; if people hear that the troops are on their way out soon, most will probably be satisfied with that without checking up to see just how many are being pulled. Face it: If we’ve now reached the point where top intel officials can talk openly about freeing Taliban prisoners from Gitmo without fear of a major backlash, they’ve got a very, very free hand to operate.

Update: No sooner did I write those last sentences than CNN reports Romney is hammering the White House for thinking of releasing the Taliban prisoners.

Update: Krauthammer wonders why Panetta keeps talking.


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After 9/11 we should have just waged a war of retribution in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killed who we wanted dead, obliterated those that stood in our way and declared victory. The idea that you are going to nation build a Muslim country is pure folly and will take at least 50 to 100 years, if ever, to achieve using the methods that Bush’s generals thought were so wonderful, Gen. David Petraeus being a good example. Softy-Softy…don’t work and no one wants to keep troops in Afghanistan for the next half century. It is not politically viable.

William Eaton on February 3, 2012 at 1:36 AM

I agree 100 percent. It is stupid to nation build in afghanistan. Both the brits and the USSR have tried and we should have learned from that. I think the best outcome from this now would be us telling them after we leave if we see any taliban in any position of power or control over any area then we will kill whatever we see the problem as being, including people that allow it to happen.

Sultanofsham on February 3, 2012 at 2:00 AM

They are all terrorist genius……

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 1:34 AM

Islam is a totalitarian and terrorist system, so all Muslims, all followers of Mohammad, Islam’s “Perfect Man”, directly or indirectly, are terrorists, dhimmi.

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:01 AM

What a bunch of dhimmis. Even the French are less dhimmis.

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:02 AM

RasThavas on February 3, 2012 at 1:18 AM

…..your “tactical nuclear response” would also turn some of our best allies throughout Europe against us.

The Middle East and parts of Asia fighting a war with the US would also seriously effect world markets and energy resources…..seriously damaging their economies which would be blamed on us.

Bush and the US became international pariahs after taking out Saddam…who most of the world considered a genocidal madman, armed to the teeth,who had already started two wars and killed close to a million of his own people….
……your plan would destroy our economy….our international relationships…..and turn the jihadist into international martyr’s.

Good luck with your movie.

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 2:05 AM

Dhimmis! Dhimmis! Dhimmis! Viva la France! At least the men there have one ball.

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:06 AM

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:01 AM

Tell it to Obama and his fan base…
…they are the ones trying to single out al-qaeda from the “Taliban are not our enemy” brigade.

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 2:07 AM

Tell it to Obama and his fan base…

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 2:07 AM

They are too stupid to understand. I figured you were much more reachable.

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:12 AM

They are too stupid to understand. I figured you were much more reachable.

VorDaj on February 3, 2012 at 2:12 AM

Their stupidity is going to get a lot of people killed before this fight with radical islam is over with.

They understand power and money….
………..we have the power and the money… but have not used it “ruthlessly” enough.

Pulling back only delays the inevitable fight that is coming….only they will be better armed and more powerful.

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 2:19 AM

lessons from the past…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYjnWXFTQkM&feature=related

…..and lessons on surrender…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qsXVfTidOM&feature=related

Baxter Greene on February 3, 2012 at 2:35 AM

It’s all about the O
*shaking the head*

cmsinaz on February 3, 2012 at 5:52 AM

Everything Obama does is about getting himself re-elected.

Everything that happens in the White House or by Democrats in Congress is about getting Obama re-elected.

All MSM reporting is about getting Obama re-elected.

The ulterior motive in everything Obama does is about getting re-elected.

albill on February 3, 2012 at 6:38 AM

albill on February 3, 2012 at 6:38 AM

+1

cmsinaz on February 3, 2012 at 6:43 AM

Why of course . . . he’ll promise to end the wars, create world peace, sanitize your laundry, wash your car, baby sit you children and anything else that could even remotely result in another vote. if you believe this guy, see me, I have several large bridges to sell.

rplat on February 3, 2012 at 7:26 AM

Give Obama credit here…….

He has to “end” the war because he needs the medal on his chest for re-election and he needs the money to pay for OBAMACARE. And frankly, he has said repeatedly he is “uncomfortable” with the word “victory”. So what benefit is Ther to propping up Karzai and his thugs in AfghaniLand?

How much blood and $$$$$$ have we lost in that hellhole……10 years?

Get out and let them go back to killing each other if we have no intention of winning..

PappyD61 on February 3, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Either (a) he’s a moron, (b) he’s lying for strategic advantage, or (c) he has something else in mind.

(d) he’s a traitor

Masih ad-Dajjal on February 3, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Meanwhile… the mullahs in Iran watch and wait.

For the Mahdi.

Cleombrotus on February 3, 2012 at 8:24 AM

“According to the BBC, the report also describes “unprecedented interest” by Afghans, including members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban over the past year, plus of course the requisite acknowledgment that Pakistan is deep, deep, deep in cahoots with the Taliban leadership.” -AlP

Now, President SmartPower needs to send Hillary over yonder with a “reset button”.
The Taliban, Paks, and al Qaeda will die laughing.

ChicagØbama is going to throw Hillary under the bus eventually anyhow, why not let the barbarians do it for him so he, as always, can claim, “It wasn’t my idea. I know nothing, nothing!” All of this will come out in her book, post this year’s election, when she bails on JugEars.

~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 3, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Panetta first gets political considerations, then makes such statements when the Pres. Approves. Does it make sense? Yes, to Panetta and pals, because if the politics are appropriate the decision must be appropriate.

dahni on February 3, 2012 at 12:30 PM

By far the most despicable administration in US history! Panetta is a hack and a fool. Just like the rest of the “czars” and political appointees in government thanks to this president! At the end of the day, we elect the politicians we deserve!

JonR on February 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

It is the right decision because the country does not deserve our help but to be punished more for their part in providing training and shelter to terrorists. Nothing that we could do or have done with political approval could be close to the suffering they will inflict on themselves after we leave.

dunce on February 3, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Comment pages: 1 2