Announcing a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was a mistake. A tactical error made by a president with no experience in battlefield tactics.
And now the white house is seeing the fruits of their error. Hamid Karzai has become more belligerent in recent months, pandering to the enemy and cozying up to his Iranian neighbors. But what else can he do? We've already telegraphed our intention to leave him to his own fate in a short period of time.
Now the administration is rushing to "clarify and qualify" the President's remarks. We're not actually leaving in July 2011...just beginning the process of starting to think about leaving. Or something.
But here's another piece of the story: There are currently twice as many contractors in Afghanistan as there are troops. Part of the President's plan is to make it appear that we are leaving without actually leaving - by transferring as much of the burden of rebuilding Afghanistan from the military to the civilian/state department side. Google "State Department Jobs in Afghanistan" to see current job openings - many of which require the applicant to be proficient in the use of firearms.
This, however, may not be such a bad idea. Civilian contractor jobs in these regions are cheaper for the US in the long run, because they don't hold any pension liability. They typically require longer stays in country, which reduces turnover and helps institutional memory. And they don't LOOK like soldiers, for the most part. So their presence is somewhat less overt. And with an average paycheck of $106,000 per year, those jobs probably look mighty good to recession-weary workers in the US, despite the inherent risks.
Whether or not the job is done by military or civilians, the White House needs to get better at information operations - saying the right things to make the job easier, not harder for our folks in the field.
Unfortunately, this President seems more concerned with pandering to his political base back at home.