Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press and was subjected to more pointed questioning about Afghanistan than anyone in the Bush administration ever was.
Not that I don't want to hear the answers. I've been questioning why we're in Afghanistan since almost the beginning. But I do find Gregory's "come to Jesus" moment oddly and conveniently timed to after the Bush administration's exit. Biden gamely explains the official goals of the administration:
Let me-- separate this out. Remind everybody what our goal is. Our overarching goal and our rational for being there is to defeat and ultimately -- or to—dismantle, ultimately defeat Al Qaeda. Residing central Al Qaeda-- residing in the—Fattah. The-- the Western Regions of the mountains of-- of-- Pakistan. Secondly, to make sure that—terrorists do not, in fact, bring down the Pakistani Government, which is a nuclear power.
Toward that end, we think it’s important that there be stability in Afghanistan so that Al Qaeda cannot re-establish it as a base from which to attack the United States of America. With regard to our effort to degrade Al Qaeda, we’re making great progress. So called C.T. That is counterterrorism. The use of Special Forces and the like to go after individuals who make up the leadership of Al Qaeda and of the Taliban.
On the issue of counterinsurgency, that is where we clear, hold, and build and transfer. We’re making progress not as rapidly as we are on the other front. The President’s been frank to say that-- in his release. Pointing out that we need two things that we’re working on very hard and we’re making some progress. One, Pakistan and safe havens. And two, governance in Afghanistan.
I think that reasonable people can quibble with the Vice President if the focus on preventing Al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan is worth destroying another country and losing thousands of lives for, especially when we know that there are less than 100 Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and only about 300 in Pakistan. However, I do take solace with the idea that the Obama administration does at least have an exit strategy to leave Afghanistan:
BIDEN: We are going to, come July, begin to draw down American forces and transfer reasonability to the Afghans.
DAVID GREGORY: Will that be a token amount of soldiers? Will it be a couple thousand troops and no more?
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well-- well, it-- it will not be a token amount. But the degree to which we draw down-- if I can make an analogy to-- Iran. I mean, excuse me, to-- to Iraq, which I’ve been put in charge of. What happened there? We signed, three years ago, an agreement with the Iraqis saying that what we’re gonna do is-- at two summers ago, we’re gonna draw all combat troops out of the cities.
Then we said that-- our Administration, we’re gonna draw 100,000 troops out the next summer. And we’re gonna be totally out. In the meantime, we’re gonna help build a government. We’re gonna transfer responsibility. And we’re gonna be gone. That’s exactly what we did at the recent Lisbon Conference, the NATO conference, where we said we’re starting this process. Just like we did in Iraq. We’re starting it in July of 2011. And we’re gonna be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014.
Cue the GOP concern trolling that we can't give arbitrary timelines to al Qaeda in 5...4...3...2...1...