…but honestly, Obama’s big announcement isn’t news at all. For all the hand-wringing that this constitutes a huge troop withdrawal that could destabilize Afghanistan, all it does is bring home the troops from the 2010 surge. This was all planned from the beginning of the surge itself, and Obama set the timetable in advance for a July 2011 withdrawal. If anything, this constitutes an even more extended timetable than originally intended.
I mentioned a variation of this thought to Linus the other day — if we are giving Afghanistan giant piles of money and tons of military assistance to fight the Taliban, isn’t it in the Afghan government’s best interests to keep the Taliban alive? If there’s no incentive to become self-sufficient, why would Afghanistan — or specifically members of the Afghan government who benefit from our largesse — ever want us to leave?
UPDATE: This helpful graph from ThinkProgress illustrates that Obama’s “withdrawal” plan isn’t much of a reduction in troop numbers, relative to troop numbers for the war as a whole.