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Patrick Mercer MP questions Obama's "deeply undesirable" timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan

Last night President Obama announced his much-delayed strategy for Afghanistan.

Mercer Patrick Conservative MP and former army officer, Patrick Mercer, has issued this statement to ConservativeHome, questioning the President's indication that troops will start to withdraw in 2011:

"One of the great military maxims is that surprise must be achieved whenever possible.  Yet, President Obama's surge in Afghanistan of around 30,000 troops is one of the most highly publicised punches ever to be delivered.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is necessary, that it will be welcomed by the Afghan people and the Afghan government and that it will provide a new dimension in which the war can be prosecuted.  But I believe that mistakes have been made presentationally.

When announcing 500 extra British troops our Prime Minister spoke about a "timetable" for withdrawal.  Now President Obama has suggested that US forces will start to drawdown in 2011.  Gordon Brown's comments were immediately greeted with rapture on jihadi websites claiming this was the start of the breakdown in the alliance and for President Obama to give a date like this also plays into our enemies hands.  I understand the need for the domestic audience to be pacified in America, but I would suggest that both leaders ought to have talked in more detail about a graduated series of achievements or goals rather than time lines.  To give time lines allows our enemies to pause or to concentrate in their offensives in order to achieve maximum effect both militarily and in terms of publicity.  Clearly, that is deeply undesirable."

Mr Mercer and Alex Deane are right but leading American hawk, Bill Kristol, is also right to welcome Barack Obama's embrace of military power - an embrace that has enraged much of the base of his own party. Kristol for the Washington Post:

"By mid-2010, Obama will have more than doubled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since he became president; he will have empowered his general, Stanley McChrystal, to fight the war pretty much as he thinks necessary to in order to win; and he will have retroactively, as it were, acknowledged that he and his party were wrong about the Iraq surge in 2007 -- after all, the rationale for this surge is identical to Bush’s, and the hope is for a similar success. He will also have embraced the use of military force as a key instrument of national power."

Tim Montgomerie


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