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Should the president ignore his generals in hopes of scoring political points?

Barack Obama is set to reject the advice of the Pentagon by announcing on Wednesday night the withdrawal of up to 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by November next year, in time for the US presidential election.

The move comes despite warnings from his military commanders that recent security gains are fragile. They have been urging him to keep troop numbers high until 2013.

The accelerated drawdown will dismay American and British commanders in Kabul, who have privately expressed concern that the White House is now being driven by political rather than military imperatives.

"This is not something we feel entirely comfortable with," a Whitehall official told the Guardian.

Obama's nationally televised address, the sixth he has given since becoming president, is intended to mark the beginning of the end of American military deployment in Afghanistan, from a present high of almost 100,000 troops.

The White House confirmed that the withdrawal will be "significant".

Obama's decision is aimed at placating an American public tired of a 10-year war that has cost 1,522 US lives. The killing of Osama bin Laden added impetus to calls to pull out.

Nato commanders led by General David Petraeus have set out the risks of withdrawing too many troops too soon, and warned Obama there has been no noticeable dividend from the death of the al-Qaida leader. They had urged him to keep in place the bulk of the extra 30,000 troops he committed to the "surge" until the end of 2012, so a drawdown can begin in 2013. That would give the military another full "fighting season" to attack Taliban strongholds and target insurgent leaders.

"They say they need another full year of this," one official told the Guardian. "They want as much as possible for as long as possible."

This year's fighting season, which is now underway, has shown that the Taliban is still strong, despite the pounding given to them over the winter by ISAF forces. In the first week of June, there were 701 security incidents across Afghanistan.

The withdrawal has created deep divisions in Washington. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued for a modest reduction ā€“ at one point as low as 2,000 ā€“ citing the advice of US commanders in Afghanistan that they need to protect gains made during the winter against the Taliban.

But senior White House staff, conscious that the president has an election to fight next year, argued in favour of a reduction that would send a signal to the US public that an end to the war is in sight.

Answer Question

Asked by Carpy at 6:38 PM on Jun. 21, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 39 (114,053 Credits)
Answers (46)
  • Risking American lives for votes is a sad sad thing to do. I don't agree with the war, but sadly we can't walk away now. If someone who has been in the military for over 30 years is giving you military advice, then LISTEN TO THEM!

    Answer by hill_star03 at 7:06 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • That is fine with me. We shouldn't have been there to begin with.It is more than time to bring our Military home and keep them safe and alive.
    This war was not about protecting anyone. It was not about "freedom". It was all about OIL.

    Answer by minnesotanice at 7:30 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • For political points, no. But I keep thinking of European imperialism of the previous century, and that we're too close to it, and that our military honestly doesn't know to handle the mideast tinderbox. It seems like the more we meddle, the worse it gets.

    Answer by gdiamante at 7:39 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • We've now been there, what - 9 - 10 years and nothing has really changed in that region. I can't see where another year or 9 or 10 years is going to make a difference one way or the other. Over all this time, we've been told that it's because we have to get Bin Laden, we did that, time to bring em home. The only thing staying there will do is cost the lives of more of our young men and women

    Answer by meriana at 8:05 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • This war was not about protecting anyone. It was not about "freedom". It was all about OIL.


    Comment by Carpy (original poster) at 8:08 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • The President is the Commander in Chief, the generals do advise but they are also expected to obey . The numbers and the timing do not seem to be set in stone anyway and it is time the Afghani Govt. and the Tribal Chiefs got their acts together and took more responsibility for their own security . Politics are always involved in wars but in this particular one , political objectives never seemed to be properly defined , except insofar as the original prime objective was Osama Bin laden and Al Qaeda , rather than the Taliban per se .

    Regardless of any dissenting generals , i think most people in the Nato countries will be pleased to see the troops come home . This war has gone on too long.

    Answer by janet116 at 8:30 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • The President is the Commander in Chief, the generals do advise but they are also expected to obey

    Presidents generally accept the decisions of the people who know what they are talking about when it comes to the military. Being from CANADA, I would not expect you to know to much about that. Obama has NO military experience and has proven he has no capacity to make intelligent foreign affairs decisions.

    Comment by Carpy (original poster) at 8:55 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • Are yall paying attention?? This isnt about IRAQ....Its about afghanistan....the troops OBAMA sent IN. And at this point they are very real concerns about a terrorist power vaccum. Focus people.

    Answer by momof030404 at 8:56 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • I've been expecting this. Troop reduction is next. I feel sorry for the Afghan people. Once we leave it will just be another terror group in charge..the only question is who.

    What branch of the military was Obama in? I keep forgetting.....

    Answer by yourspecialkid at 9:18 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

  • This war is about OIL.


    Afghanistan does not have much oil. Iraq does, but even if this were about Iraq, how much oil have we brought back? Answer: NOT A SINGLE DROP!

    Answer by hill_star03 at 9:24 PM on Jun. 21, 2011

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