Biden Wins on Afghanistan? Not So Fast - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Biden Wins on Afghanistan? Not So Fast

I’ll have more in the morning on Obama’s speech announcing troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, but for now I’d just like to question one bit of conventional wisdom that seems to be settling in.

Sen. Lindsey Graham says “Petraeus loses, Biden wins.” A Democratic source of Ben Smith’s similarly suggests that we just heard a “Joe Biden was right speech.” The idea is that Obama is shifting away from a troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy toward the light-footprint counterterrorism strategy that Biden advocated (before being overruled by the President) during the internal administration debate in 2009. But this seems to me to be overstating things.

General Petraeus was reported earlier this week to endorse a timetable under which about 5000 troops would leave by the end of 2011, another 5000 by spring of 2012, and another 20,000 would leave by the end of 2012. Obama is pushing this timetable forward by several months: 5000 by the end of this summer, another 5000 by the end of 2011, and another 20,000 by September 2012. No doubt, this will make Petraeus’s (and his successor’s) job somewhat harder, but it’s not exactly a wholesale rejection of his strategy.

There will still be a little under 70,000 American troops in Afghanistan at the end of 2012. Les Gelb, a sometime adviser to Biden, took to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page just after Osama bin Laden was killed to advocate a withdrawal of all but around 25,000 troops by the beginning of 2013. That’s what a Biden-style strategy would look like. Obama may be inching somewhat closer to that course of action, but it seems wrong to suggest he’s adopting it.

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