Petraeus: Military Didn't Recommend Obama’s July 2011 Date for Beginning Withdrawal from Afghanistan
July 1, 2010 - 5:27 PMGen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that President Barack Obama's July 2011 drawdown date for U.S troops in Afghanistan was not proposed by military officials.
Petraeus said that he understood that the “president has to be interested in fiscal considerations, political considerations, diplomatic considerations" in making decisions about withdrawing troops from a war.
Nonetheless, Petraeus said he agreed with the dateline, while adding that a U.S. presence in Afghanistan is necessary for “quite some time.”
At the hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Petraeus, “Was there a recommendation from you or anyone in the military that we set a [drawdown] date of July 2011?”
Petraeus said, “There was not.”
McCain then said, “There was not – by any military person that you know of?”
Petraeus answered, “Not that I’m aware of.”
In reference to the July 2011 date, Petraeus said, “It was not just for domestic political purposes. It was also meant for audiences in Kabul that we will not be there forever.”
He then added, “But we will be there, presumably for quite some time.”
When questioned by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about the drawdown date, Petraeus said, “What I have done is restate the policy as it currently exists, senator, and the policy again, and as I stated, I supported and agreed to back last fall to begin a process in July 2011 under which tasks are transferred to Afghan security forces and government officials and a quote ‘responsible drawdown’ of the surge forces begins based to be determined by conditions.”
Petraeus, who is top commander in Afghanistan, said he “was consulted” about the Obama administration’s drawdown date when asked by Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.).
“There’s no question that in the final session that [July 2011 date] was discussed,” Petraeus testified.
LeMieux then asked, “Do you find that the adoption of something like [July 2011] coming from the civilian side, the elected leadership of the country, without being offered by the military, do you find that to be normal based upon the history of this country?”
Petraeus said, “The president has to be interested in fiscal considerations, political considerations, diplomatic considerations, all of that is appropriate. So I don’t find it unusual to have, again, something be inserted that was not from the bottom up.”
Obama first announced his July 2011 drawdown during a speech at West Point Academy on Dec. 2, 2009, saying, “We will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.”
Since then, the president has continued to repeat his July 2011 policy, emphasizing that the date will mark the beginning of a “process” based on ground conditions.
However, Vice President Joe Biden was quoted in “The Promise,” Jonathan Alter’s book on Obama’s first year in office, as saying, “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.”
During the hearing, Petraeus said Biden is fully on board with Obama’s July 2011 policy.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration’s drawdown date, saying, among other things, that it sends mixed messages about U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s stability.
“Somebody needs to get it straight, without doubt, what the hell we’re going to do come July,” said Graham, “because I think it determines whether or not someone in Afghanistan is going to stay in the fight.”
Graham continued: “This is all not your problem to fix. This is a political problem, because I’m assuming the July deadline did not come from you. You said it didn’t. You agreed to it. But somebody other than you came up with this whole July get out of Afghanistan deadline, and I think it’s all politics. But that’s just me.”