“President Barack Obama is expected to announce on Wednesday his plan to withdraw by the end of 2012 the 33,000 additional surge troops sent to Afghanistan, with at least 5,000 personnel – a brigade — to exit by the close of this year, administration officials told POLITICO.”If this is what Obama's going to say Wednesday, it will be a perfectly characteristic exercise in staking out the middle ground. He won't be giving his generals everything they want, but he won't be caving in to his increasingly restive base either.
I have to say, however, that the residual hawkishness of this timetable surprises and disappoints me. Yes, Obama ran in 2008 saying we had to get out of Iraq so that we could “finish the job” in Afghanistan. But he’d always left himself a lot of wiggle room when it came to specifying what counts as “finishing it.” I figured—and hoped—that, ten years into a war that his base shows every sign of bailing on, Obama would be positioning himself for reelection as the guy who’d managed to get us to the point where we could at least pretend to see the light at the end of the Afghanistan tunnel, although I wouldn't pretend to tell you what it's supposed to look like.
Yet Obama seems to be going out of his way now to disabuse us of that sensible hope. Spencer Ackerman reminds us that, if Politico and other media outlets are right, as of Election Day 2012 there will still be some 20,000 more American troops in Afghanistan than there were on the day he took office. And it’s hard to see how the light at the end of the tunnel will shine any more brightly then than it does now.