Whatever Obama decides, the row has put a spotlight on a debate that’s been bubbling along since before Obama committed the United States to a new counterinsurgency strategy here last December: How much time is enough time? And does hinting at limits to US patience encourage a better effort from Afghan politicians like President Hamid Karzai or simply send a message to the Taliban that they can run out the clock?
In Kabul, Afghan officials and some average citizens are worried that the timer on the US commitment to Afghanistan is set to run down in July of next year. That’s when Obama says that he hopes to start withdrawing US troops and give more political and military responsibility to Mr. Karzai’s government.
Officials in Kabul say the article simply lays bare what’s been an open secret for a long time: a fairly poisonous atmosphere between McChrystal’s team and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former general here who argued against the surge, that’s making it difficult for the State Department and the military to work well together.
“There are tensions between the State Department and the military in Kabul as well, that’s clear,” says Mr. Rahmani. “McChrystal didn’t think that he could, in a year and a half, stabilize the ground – that this was an exit strategy.”
NATO had about 75,000 troops here before the surge. When the surge peaks, there should be about 150,000. The plan as drawn up, Rahmani says, was to start drawing down to about 75,000 again in the middle of next summer, if all goes well.