I am at a loss to understand what President Obama was trying to do with his speech tonight.
The speech appeared aimed at reassuring the public that things were going just dandy in Afghanistan and that we would end that war within three years, just as we’re pulling out of Iraq this year. And Obama promised a transition to Afghan security control by the end of 2014.
Yet that war is seriously troubled – in a way the president finessed. It’s not clear that this transition will work, especially if public pressure rises for an even swifter withdrawal.
By overemphasizing the positive, and bypassing the continuing threats, the president missed an opportunity to explain to Americans why the withdrawal should proceed at a moderate pace. He failed to explain why it’s vital to keep the bulk of 33,000 “surge” troops in Afghanistan until next summer, and to draw down the remaining 68,000 troops gradually.