As expected, the White House is still saying little about the pace and scale of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan that's scheduled to begin in July.
Ever since Obama announced the withdrawal plans on Dec. 1, 2009 in a speech at West Point, the administration has played it close to the vest. Troops will begin to come home then, Obama has said, but how many will leave Afghanistan, and how quickly they will leave it, has been left to be decided in July and beyond.
After Vice President Joe Biden met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week on a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, a senior administration official was asked about the withdrawal plans by a reporter aboard Air Force Two en route back to D.C., and had this to say:
Q Can you -- having been on the ground and gotten briefings from the military commanders there and met with Karzai, what kind of a drawdown are we going to see in six months? Like how -- what is it going to -- is it going to be significant, is it going to be a small --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's really premature to judge that. The President has been very clear and consistently clear that the drawdown that would begin in July will be conditions-based. We don't know the conditions. And so the pace and scale of the drawdown will be very much dependent on where we are in July.
What we do know is that we will begin a drawdown. What we do know is that this year we are starting the transition to Afghan responsibility. But we don't know yet the pace and scale of that.
Afghanistan is slated to take control of its own security in 2014. At Lisbon meetings with NATO officials last year, Karzai seemed to be on board with this plan.
Politically, the haziness of the withdrawal plans have satisfied everyone and no one. Opponents of the war have a withdrawal date in hand, but they don't know how seriously to take it. Supporters of the war have avoided a hard deadline for withdrawal, but they've also criticized the president for telegraphing U.S. strategy to the Taliban.