News Release

Afghanistan: Drawdown Is Not Withdrawal

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org
Policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “Panetta’s statement is a welcome admission that there is nothing to be gained by further extending the war. This admission is consistent with the accelerated drawdown of forces that the majority of Americans want. But it is important for the public to know that there is still no schedule for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and much of the media is still falsely reporting that there is such a schedule, such as the New York Times article that reported on Panetta’s statement.”

The New York Times wrote in its report on Panetta’s statement: “In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home. … The United States has some 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, but 22,000 of them are due home by this fall. There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.”

Naiman noted: “There is currently no year by which all American troops are scheduled to come home. Indeed, the first text above has a web link that points to this article: ‘Obama Will Speed Pullout From War in Afghanistan’

“The only reference to 2014 in that article is this paragraph: ‘Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the drawdown would continue “at a steady pace” until the United States handed over security to the Afghan authorities in 2014.’

“Note that there is nothing here about withdrawing all U.S. troops by 2014, only about ‘handing over security.’ …

“The notion that 2014 is a deadline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces stems from a NATO summit in which these words were never said; U.S. and NATO officials have said repeatedly that there is no such deadline.

“Indeed, the lack of existence of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces is a major cause of the continuation of the war, since in the past the Afghan Taliban have demanded that the U.S. agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces as a condition of peace, a demand that the U.S. has so far refused.”