CNN’s touting it as a big scoop but did anyone expect any other answer, especially with his confirmation hearing set to start in a few days? Hence my point yesterday about his appeal to Obama: Whatever resistance to a drawdown that Petraeus may eventually offer, The One can count on him to offer it privately and to endorse his decision publicly. That’s why I suspect he chose him partly with an eye to the political cover he’ll provide if in fact O issues the order to withdraw.
But don’t despair just yet. Dan Foster at NRO flags this eyebrow-raiser from Obama’s presser with Medvedev this afternoon:
Obama was careful not to frame July 2011 as a withdrawal date, but the beginning of a transition.
“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility,” he said.
Translation: I’m not (yet) committed to anything more than a token drawdown. Veteran HA readers may remember that we already danced this waltz about the significance of the 2011 deadline last year, with McChrystal and Gates repeatedly hinting that it doesn’t mean much and receiving some pushback from The One in response. All it is, really, is a political compromise between buying some time for counterinsurgency to work and placating the Democratic base with the promise of some sort of reduction in forces. Obama will look at the battlefield landscape and the electoral landscape next year and forge the next compromise going forward. Since the whole point is to kick the can down the round, it’s pointless to try to divine any sense of further commitment now.
If you missed it in Headlines earlier, the Taliban is reportedly pretty jacked about McChrystal’s fall from grace. Don’t celebrate too hard, though, boys: According to the Telegraph, Petraeus may relax big Mac’s much-maligned restrictive rules of engagement. Exit quotation from an unnamed military analyst: “His approach is to get the troops among the population and build relationships on the ground. If that involves killing while trying to engage the locals then so be it.”