At their winter meeting in DC, the Democratic National Committee gave Obama a major push on Afghanistan by passing a resolution calling for a “swift” withdrawal, including a “significant and sizable reduction no later than July 2011”:
The resolution adopted Saturday states that “the Democratic Party supports prioritizing job creation and a swift withdrawal of U.S. armed forces and military contractors in Afghanistan which must include a significant and sizable reduction no later than July 2011.”
The resolution cites the length of the war (nearly ten years), the cost (more than $100 billion per year), the lack of public support (72 percent want to “speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan”) and the argument that the conflict does not require a military solution.
“The passage of my resolution places the Democratic Party squarely on the side of American people who overwhelmingly support a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan, beginning with a significant and sizeable reduction in U.S. troop levels by no later than July of this year,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who submitted the resolution. Other submitters were DNC Vice Chairs Donna Brazile and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and DNC Secretary Alice Germond.
It’s significant that a major campaign apparatus of the Democratic Party, which clearly has its eyes on the 2012 elections, would pass a resolution that goes beyond the position of its sitting president. While it does not directly contradict anything the president has said, it offers more definition for a July withdrawal than the president himself has given. Obama has repeatedly emphasized his plans to begin a military withdrawal, but has given no indication of what that withdrawal will look like. Others in his administration and the military leadership, from Robert Gates to David Petraeus, certainly don’t make it sound as though they are planning on anything “significant and sizable.” The closest thing we have heard to an end date is a discussion of ending combat operations by the end of 2014, with the possibility of having “non-combat troops” (think the 50,000 currently in Iraq) on the ground beyond that date. Not exactly what I would call “swift.”
It should be no surprise that the people responsible for winning elections, still smarting from the 2010 enthusiasm gap, would want to demonstrate momentum toward ending the war. The war is incredibly unpopular with Democrats and independents, and Republicans aren’t all that enthused about it either. President Obama’s talk of July isn’t going to satisfy frustrated Americans who are seeing their social services cut while the war budget remains untouched, unless they see real action.