Obama’s Fuzzy Deadline:  No to “switching off the lights,” Yes to “begin a transition phase”

President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House.

From Barack Obama, the White House:  Our mission, first and foremost, is to dismantle and destroy al Qaeda and its affiliates so that they can’t attack the United States.  The reason we’re there in the first place is because 3,000 Americans were killed from an attack launched in that region.   We are not going to have that repeated.

In order to achieve that, we have to make sure that we have a stable Afghan government, and we also have to make sure that we’ve got a Pakistani government that is working effectively with us to dismantle these networks.

What we then said was we would put in additional troops to provide the time and the space for the Afghan government to build up its security capacities, to clear and hold population centers that are critical, to drive back the Taliban, to break their momentum, and that beginning next year we would begin a transition phase in which the Afghan government is taking more and more responsibility for its own security.

Here’s what we did not say last year.  We did not say that starting July 2011, suddenly there would be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan.  We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. What we said is we’d begin a transition phase in which the Afghan government is taking on more and more responsibility.

That is the strategy that was put forward.  What we’ve also said is, is that in December of this year, a year after this strategy has been put in place, at a time when the additional troops have been in place and have begun implementing strategy, that we’ll conduct a review and we’ll make an assessment:  Is the strategy working?  Is it working in part?  Are there other aspects of it that aren’t working?  How is the coordination between civilian and military?  Are we doing enough to build Afghan security capacity?  How are we working effectively with our allies?

Excerpt from Remarks by President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia at Joint Press Conference. (photo: Getty) (video)


Image: getty%206%2025%2010%20Barack%20Obama%20Medvedev%20press%20conference.jpg