Reagan: Jack, this in the wake of course of President Obama's speech, in which he proposed a timeline: 30,000 troops in by next summer, but starting to withdraw by the summer after that, July of 2011. Is that kind of a timeline in any way realistic? Are we going to be able to accomplish so much basically in a year?
Rice: The idea that we could go in and somehow change the fundamental dynamic inside of Afghanistan by July of 2011–in other words, we're going to convince the Karzai government not to be criminal, not to be incompetent, not to be unethical. We're also going to convince all of the Taliban to somehow lay down their arms and we're going to convince the Afghan government to create an army that they have not been able to create in the past and create a police force that they haven't been able to create. Really? And we're going to do all of this by July 2011.
Administration officials are already stating that withdrawal goals are flexible. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress that July 2011 “will be the beginning of a process, an inflection point, if you will, of transition for Afghan forces as they begin to assume greater responsibility for security” and that the pace of the withdrawal would be determined by “conditions on the ground.”
Is such talk from Gates an acknowledgment of the lack of realism regarding the timeline? Does the statement also raise troubling questions about another possible American military quagmire?