Wiggle Room

Gates and Clinton:

On Meet the Press, Gates said the July 2011 date marks “the beginning of a process” and that “we’re not talking about an abrupt withdrawal.”

“It will begin in July of 2011,” Gates said. “But how quickly it goes will very much depend on the conditions on the ground. We will have a significant number of forces in there for a considerable period of time after that.”

“We don’t have an open-ended combat commitment,” Clinton said. However, “we’re not going to be walking away from Afghanistan again. We did that before. It didn’t turn out very well.”

Jones:

National Security Adviser James Jones said on CNN’s State of the Union this morning that President Obama’s July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan is “not a cliff. It’s a glide slope.”

“The president’s decision on 2011 has more to do with a transition than anything else,” Jones said.

There’s nothing really unreasonable about adjusting your plans based on conditions on the ground. But it is a crucial reminder of what I said here: That this conflict could drag on well past July 2011.

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