President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his U.S. troop reduction plan for Afghanistan next week, buoyed by assessments by senior defense officials that the U.S. war strategy is headed in the right direction and has weakened the Taliban-led insurgency.
But some U.S. officials in Washington and in Afghanistan are concerned that many of the gains aren't sustainable, and conditions are too fragile to allow for the "significant" troop drawdown that Obama is being pressured to begin next month by some top aides and growing numbers of lawmakers of both parties.
Violence is worse, many Taliban appear to have moved elsewhere rather than fight U.S. forces surged into the south, the Afghan government and security forces remain far from capable, and counter-insurgency cooperation with Pakistan is all but frozen, these U.S. officials said.
"The situation is terrible. Has there been a qualitative change that disadvantages the opposition and advantages the (U.S.-led) coalition? I don't buy it," said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "The Taliban remains a clever, adaptive enemy."
Not even "White House officials" or "Pentagon officials" but the all-purpose "US officials" which basically means "This is so far off the record that it smells like dead fish." Somebody's hell-bent on raining on the "let's bring them home" parade, even with bin Laden dead.
It'll be interesting to see where this all shakes out. This makes me question just how bi-partisan the effort by Republicans really is about bringing troops home, too. In fact, this seems like a concerted effort to both minimize the success of bin Laden's death, and to pin the "continued failure in Afghanistan" on Obama, something right up the Republicans' alley for 2012.
I'm moderately surprised McClatchy is playing ball with this, but there you are.