Today, General David Petraeus published a letter to the troops in Afghanistan about what’s ahead in the coming year. He praised their efforts and let them know to expect “much hard work” in 2011 and a “difficult” way ahead. One thing he neglected to mention? The July 2011 troop withdrawals that President Obama first promised in his West Point speech in 2009. Spencer Ackerman notes the absence over at Danger Room:
In other words: all around Afghanistan, 2011 is going to be a difficult year, characterized by a tough fight. Petraeus has already intensified the war since assuming command in July, with increases in air strikes and raids by Special Operations Forces; tanks and rockets in Helmand and Kandahar; knocking down empty Afghan villages that the Taliban turned into bombfests; and accelerated development of Afghan security forces. His letter shows every indication of maintaining that tempo this year.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s no mention of July 2011 — what the Obama team used to call its “inflection point” for transitioning security to Afghan control. Instead, Petraeus writes that the war got “a further boost” by NATO countries committing to support “President Karzai’s goal of Afghan forces being in the lead throughout Afghanistan by the end of 2014.” (Some want a “strategic partnership” with Afghanistan “beyond 2014″ as well, he notes.)
This is another in a long line of signs that the administration needs to face serious pressure to articulate what exactly they intend to do in July. They’re going to need pressure from the public and Congress to give them the political space necessary to push back against an overeager military leadership and hawkish Republicans who are already planning to go after the squishy transition date.
Michael Cohen at Democracy Arsenal expresses a frustration that I and many people share in constantly reiterating the same arguments about the war in Afghanistan and why we need a different approach. His post offers an important reminder about why we must continue to raise our voices and we must not relent in pressuring the administration and Congress until this tragic war comes to an end.
Sometimes when you focus so much energy on strategy and tactics the human toll is forgotten. Then I read stories like this one in the Los Angeles Times, which recounts the devastating impact of the war on just one Marine regiment, and I realize that voices must continually raised against the war in Afghanistan and the manner in which it is being prosecuted…
…Please read the entire article. It packs an emotional wallop; but it also tells a story that needs to be re-told – about a war that is tangential to US interests; that is being poorly prosecuted by our military leaders; that has been sold by our political leaders as though it is in this nation’s vital interests when it is anything but; and that is wreaking a terrible toll on both our fighting men and women in uniform and their families.
But above all, it is a reminder that this terrible and unnecessary war that is, in reality, doing very little to keep Americans safe is ruining too many young lives, both here and in Afghanistan.