The British military is openly critical of President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will begin removing our troops from Afghanistan by mid-2011:
Tensions between Britain and America over the war in Afghanistan erupted into the open yesterday as the Defence Secretary questioned President Obama’s decision to put a date on the start of US troop withdrawals.
In an interview with The Times, Bob Ainsworth said that the Government would not follow Washington’s promise to start pulling out in 2011. “You can’t put a time on it. You’ve got to look at conditions,” he said. …
His comments reflect dismay at the highest level in the British Armed Forces about Mr Obama’s suggestion this week that US troop withdrawals would start by mid-2011. Britain expects to have substantial forces on the ground in Afghanistan for at least five or six more years.
Military commanders have warned the Americans that naming a date could be a hostage to fortune and make it harder to beat the Taleban. There are fears that talk of a withdrawal timetable will diminish the impact of the long-awaited “surge”. …
There is growing tension between Britain and America over the strategy in Afghanistan. Mr Ainsworth said that the command structure in Helmand after the surge had still not been decided.
This is the latest in a long series of Obama administration moves that have alienated allies or left them in the lurch. Perhaps Obama thinks he doesn’t need to consult with or respect the views of the British, since they are actually on our side.
UPDATE: Ralph Peters thinks al Qaeda, the Pakistanis and the Afghans saw Obama’s speech the same way the British Army did:
Make no mistake: The only “take-away” from Obama’s West Point speech for Pakistanis, Afghans, the Taliban and al Qaeda was “July 2011.” That’s all they heard.
And it doesn’t matter how many US Cabinet officers, generals and admirals backtrack and claim that our president didn’t really mean it, that any troop withdrawals will be “conditions based.”
Forget it. The Taliban’s new recruiting slogan is simply, “July, 2011. Join now, or pay later.” And how Obama thinks he’s going to attract more young Afghans to join the Karzai government’s (in)security forces is beyond my mental faculties. They weren’t joining in adequate numbers before, so why would they sign up in hordes after our president sent them an advance bye-bye note? …
It’s disheartening to see how much smarter the Taliban spinmeisters and even the Pakistanis are than our president’s inept speechwriters — who focused purely on the US audience, never asking how Obama’s West Point soliloquy would play in the war zone. Of course, the Obama crowd spins everything as a triumph. The White House claims of success remind me of Saddam Hussein’s information minister insisting that America’s military had been annihilated — as our Army and Marines entered downtown Baghdad.
Afghanistan’s over. More splendid American men and women in uniform will die or suffer terrible wounds, but it was over when our self-absorbed president put the 2012 presidential election above our national security last Tuesday. It was over the moment he uttered the words that doomed his presidency: “July, 2011.”
That’s hyperbolic, I think. Obama’s Presidency may or may not be doomed, but if so it is because of what he is doing on the domestic front (government medicine, unheard-of deficits, massive tax increases around the corner). If his Afghanistan policy is misguided, it will most likely be some years before we, and a future administration, pay the price.