Washington (CNN) – One of the key goals of the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, is to try to settle the debate on the significance of the July 2011 date, according to an International Security Assistance Force official familiar with Petraeus' thinking.
After a month in the job, during which he stayed mostly out of public view, the general is preparing a round of interviews with media outlets.
July 2011 is the date President Barack Obama has set to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But just what that will mean continues to be a question that the administration is struggling to answer clearly.
U.S. military officials are stressing that any withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011 could be fairly minor and will be based on conditions on the ground. Asked if the number of troops to be withdrawn in July could be relatively small, a senior U.S. military official told reporters, "We still think that's the case.'
Petraeus is expected to underscore the case that the July 2011 date is one that is not necessarily linked to a predetermined number of troops leaving.
"He's taking a very pragmatic approach and understands that it's a year away, the full uplift isn't even on the ground yet, there are a range of issues outside ISAF control (mostly in governance) and that the enemy has a vote. He's not laying any groundwork - we're just working hard at the mission given by the president," said the ISAF official.
The issue of how many troops could be withdrawn and how quickly that could happen, continues to dog the Pentagon.
"We keep going around and around and around on this, and the answer is the same as it's always been," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Wednesday. "We will begin thinning our troops in July of 2011. How many and how fast is going to depend on the situation on the ground."
At his Senate confirmation hearing, Petraeus emphasized that the 2011 date is "the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits." He said the date is meant to put pressure on the Afghan government to step up and take responsibility, but emphasized the United States will be assisting Afghan forces.
The United States and its NATO allies are expected to devote much of a November ministerial meeting to discussing various "metrics," or indicators of success, in Afghanistan, the official said. Those metrics will include: the number of trained and equipped Afghan security forces; security conditions in key districts; the ability of the Afghan government to provide basic services to its citizens; and other indicators of whether areas of the country can be turned over to Afghan control.
"The more stable areas are the early candidates for transition," the official said, noting the first areas may be in north.
The ministerial meeting will be followed by a report to Obama from his commanders in December about whether the overall counterinsurgency strategy is working. That December report will be instrumental in deciding how to proceed come July 2011.
If we wait for Afghanistan to be ready for us to get out we'll be there forever. Pulling out by July 2011 would be OK, but about 8 years too late in my opinion. Who is benefiting by our soldiers staying there? It sure isn't me or mine, and the Afghans themselves don't seem to be better off. So who is getting rich from the blood our soldiers are shedding and the borrowed money the country is wasting?
Petraeus is going to have to set the record straight because the community organizer hasn't a clue.
We need to get out of Afghanistan. Carpet bomb the Affghan-Pakistan border where most of the terrorist leaders hide. Use drones to bomb problem areas as they arise.
Collateral damage of the people? They shouldn't be haboring Taliban in their cities or accept the consequences.
We will never win a ground war in Afghanistan – no one ever has.
Bush got us into a deadly war that was a total lie and killed tens of thousands of soldiers. We don't need to waste more lives on a war that will never end. We have more than helped that country and iff they are not willing to stand up for themselves, then they get what they get. Karzai is using us to stay in power. We just need to get out.
Think what we could do with all that money here at home!
In the commander in chief just knew what war is???!
We need out NOW!
Let's get them home now and then we won't have to waste more American lives till 2011.
We need to bring our soldiers home now.We don't need to be waiting around for some phony deadline of July 2011 when things will be no different then as opposed to today.Just thinking about the number of soldiers that will die between now and then makes me sick to my stomach.
Liberals are not going to get their way on this matter. War is a billion dollar business and too many jobs and money is at stake. Liberals need not pressure the President on this one or Democrats will suffer for it.
Let's see if the stupid repos get it this time around. Hey they are busy having a victory dinner in florida. Thank god it isn't the president or they would be hollering he is wasting time and money. I wonder where the money is coming from for the dinner. The dumb repo donators. Vote all repos out in NOv
Sounds like a plan. Let's get the job done and wrap it up. 10 years is enough – but let's take care of business while we are still there.
While listening to Gen. Petraeus today, I suddenly had a thought that was completely off topic.
How would the Pentagon, Congress and the White House handle the situation if it was suspected that the general might be gay?
Would he undergo the same "undercover and semi-illegal" investigation into his personal life as many of the military personel have had to endure? Or would he conduct business as usual because he's "special".
This would likely be the telling point to prove how unfair and illegal DADT really is.
It is time to come home period. We do not have the blood or treasure to spare. Our sons and daughters have fought long and hard enough. It is time to bring them home and care for them with the money we would save from fighting this never ending war.
Why is it Republicans only want to fund wars, but when our soldiers come home, there is not enough money to care for them and their families.
I hope we haven't strayed too far from the idea that we put our military in a combat situation with one objective: To Win It. If we are not giving them all of the support they need to win it, they will certainly come home in defeat. Is anyone interested in handing that situation over to future generations of Americans? I hope not, because I don't want them having to go back again. Do it once, do it right and don't go back.