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The timetable for US withdrawal from Afghanisation going beyond the declared 2011 timeline

Barrack Obama inherited a huge can of worms from his predecessor, George Bush, in terms of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And his political base, the Democrats, consists of a large number of more liberal supporters who abhor the US military presence in these countries and want the military to get back. Obama has been lucky in Iraq, with the country slowly settling down into an uneasy peace (and with a lot of political jostling); the US military has been disengaging and not facing too much pressure during this process. However, it is in Afghanistan that things are not going to plan. The US cannot just up and leave from the country, since that would effectively mean turning the country over to the Taliban, with a huge chance of re-emergence of the country as a terrorist training ground, it would mean that the US would be seen as a defeated rival and militant Islam will get a huge face lift from such a step, and the credibility of the US as a force that is capable of staying will be lost.
It would be pretty clear that Obama realizes this, and sought to reassure all sides of opinion by declaring that the US will stay, but will move towards withdrawal from Afghanistan by July 2011. However, this had an immediate negative effect on the field of operations by letting the Taliban know about the long term plans of the US, and also letting them gain the upper hand by threatening the populace that with the US going to leave in a matter of months, they better not support the US, or they would face a reaction from the Taliban later. The US military was pretty understanding of this reaction, and also passed on the same sentiments, since it got more difficult to get the Taliban on their side.

And now we see that the US is slowly changing their projection of this date as a important milestone, with the US already talking about a 2014 date (which is a further 3 years) (refer article)

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

This is a welcome change. Even though one would not want the US to be in Afghanistan and lose more military members (and also the Afghanistan population who are suffering the confrontation between the US and the Taliban), the mission that the US has set for itself in Afghanistan in terms of ensuring that the country is not a center for terrorism will need this time and effort to come to a result.

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