Unfortunately, President Obama missed a valuable opportunity tonight to demonstrate that he is fully committed to success in Afghanistan. Instead he stubbornly reiterated his July 2011 withdrawal date.
Obama rightly said Americans should not lose sight of what is at stake in Afghanistan and that the U.S. must prevent the country from again becoming a terrorist safe haven. But his subsequent declarations that U.S. forces will only be in place for a limited time and that “wars cannot go on forever” revealed his impatience with the current counterinsurgency strategy and undermined everything else he said about the war in Afghanistan.
His emphatic “make no mistake” line came before his statement about his commitment to withdrawing troops next summer. But it should have come before his pledge to “break the Taliban’s momentum.”
In other words, he came across as more committed to withdrawing troops next July than prevailing over the Taliban. This is not how a Commander-in-Chief should lead his troops in war.
For those who hoped President Obama had finally seen the light about the ill-conceived July 2011 deadline and would use tonight’s speech to walk it back, they have been sorely disappointed.