It is the nature of David Petraeus to move mountains to achieve his mission--and the immediate mountain sitting in front of him is the Obama Administration's December policy review, which will determine how quickly we start to leave Afghanistan in July 2011.
Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal came away from the last policy review, in the fall of 2009, with the distinct impression that the 2011 date would not signal the beginnings of a precipitate bugout. I was told by Administration officials at the time that there might be NATO withdrawals in 7/11--the Germans from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, for example--and some cosmetic American reductions, but the main fighting force in the Taliban-infested south and east would continue its work until the mission was accomplished.
I’m actually surprised that he’s starting to push this now; it makes more political sense for Obama to have him do it after the midterms, when there are no electoral consequences in asking to extend a war that’s increasingly identified with Democrats. Presumably he nixed that idea because the long-awaited Kandahar campaign is set to begin later this year and the optics of demanding more time in the middle of a tough battle might be awkward. Better to float the idea this summer, before the shooting starts, so that the public doesn’t read it as a desperation move taken in response to a hard fight later.
The NYT is losing faith:
[W]e are increasingly confused and anxious about the strategy in Afghanistan and wonder whether, at this late date, there is a chance of even minimal success.