If Americans have learned anything from President Barack Obama’s recent national address, it’s that he is a man who means what he says.
When President Obama announced the troop surge in Afghanistan in December 2009, he set a timetable of goals. One was to begin a drawdown of troops by July 2011. This week, the president pushed ahead with that goal. The targeted drawdown — and the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan — will start within a few weeks.
Another thing Americans have learned about this commander in chief is that he does his due diligence when making a decision. After speaking with insiders, foreign affairs specialists and key White House sources, I’ve put together some of the steps Obama employed in reaching his drawdown decision:
— He met on a regular basis with his full team, including those on the ground in Afghanistan and nearby in Pakistan.
— He received weekly written reports on Afghanistan from officials at the departments of Defense and State.
— He met weekly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Afghanistan and other issues.
— He ordered his national security staff to review our strategy and publish its findings, which it did last December.
— He consulted regularly with our International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NATO allies. The latter’s commander issued a statement of agreement with Obama’s decision for an accelerated drawdown.
In 2009, former Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to prod President Obama into a hasty decision, calling his information-gathering and consulting “dithering.” We now know that once the president puts his foot is down, he doesn’t lift it.
In deciding to end the surge in Afghanistan by 2012, the president not only is sticking to his goals, but he is strengthening America. We need time to heal. We need time, as Obama put it, “to focus on nation-building here at home.”
The public’s reaction to the drawdown has been favorable. Critics like Ahmad Majidyar — a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute who recently wrote that President Obama’s withdrawal is “a recipe for disaster” — are a micro-minority.
Americans believe fighting a seemingly endless conflict in Afghanistan is the true recipe for disaster.
The president’s drawdown is receiving mixed reviews from Republicans, mostly because the Republican Party is at war with itself, and has no fixed foreign policy it agrees upon.
Polls reveal that Americans view the Afghanistan government as hostile and uncooperative, and doubt that we can win a clear victory.
President Obama still seeks the destruction of al-Qaida.
But the terror group’s focus has shifted to Yemen. The United States killed one major al-Qaida leader there recently, and is paying close attention to the group’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula.
Hopefully, the war-weary American people will finally see a glimmer of hope that things are truly turning around.
As one senior administration official put it to me shortly after the president’s address: “We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.”
Amen to that.
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