Fox News military analyst Jack Keane falsely claimed that President Obama's withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan was based on politics instead of reacting to the state of the conflict. In fact, military leadership has supported Obama's timeline as appropriate given the conditions on the ground.
On the January 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, retired Gen. Jack Keane attacked Obama for the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, claiming: “We made arbitrary withdrawal time schedules in Vietnam as we've done in Afghanistan. Not based on conditions on the ground.” From the show:
Keane pointed to a December 1, 2009 speech that Obama delivered in West Point as evidence that the withdrawal timetable was set for political reasons. But in the speech, Obama stated that withdrawal would be dependent on “conditions on the ground” :
These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government -- and, more importantly, to the Afghan people -- that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.
Military leadership has supported Obama's withdrawal schedule. During his confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Petraeus explained that his agreement with the president on the timeline was based on “conditions that we hoped we'd obtain” :
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So that you're fully supportive of the president's policy, including beginning a transition based upon the conditions on the ground in July of 2011.
PETRAEUS: Let me be very clear if I could, Senator. And not only did I say that I supported it, I said that I agreed with it. This is, again, an agreement that was made back, of course, in the fall of last year, based on projections about conditions that we hoped we'd obtain, that we were going to strive to achieve in Afghanistan a full year from now. So that was, you know, an 18-month or more projection at that time.
During a question and answer session, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lauded the president's timetable and pointed out that “The military was deeply involved in the development of the president's strategy.” Pentagon spokesman George Little bolstered the president's 2009 remarks when he explained to Reuters in 2011:
We've repeatedly said that the nature of the drawdown after the surge troops come home will be conditions-based. No decisions have been made.