On This Week with Jake Tapper, Rahm Emanuel says that the Afghanistan withdrawal deadline is really more of a guideline:
TAPPER: Your portfolio is a lot larger than just energy and the oil spill. I want to move on the Afghanistan. We recently have two grim milestones in Afghanistan. More than 1,000 U.S. service personnel have died in there in service to their country. And this war became the longest in our nation's history.
TAPPER: The president set a July 2011 deadline for the beginning of troop withdrawal. But there is some confusion as to what it means, exactly. In Jon Alter's new book, here's Vice President Biden, he says, quote: "At the conclusion of an interview in his West Wing office, Biden was adamant. 'In July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out, be on it,' Biden said as he wheeled to leave the room, late for lunch with the president. He turned at the door and said once more, 'Bet on it.'"
But here is General Petraeus testifying before Congress this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, CENTCOM: ... said that it was very important that it not imply a race for the exits, a search for the light to turn off or anything like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So what exactly does the July 2011 deadline mean? Is it going to be a whole lot of people moving out, definitely, as Vice President Biden says? Or could it be more nuanced, as General Petraeus says, maybe just a couple of people leaving one province?
EMANUEL: Well, no, everybody knows there's a firm date. And that firm date is a date -- deals with the troops that are part of the surge, the additional 30,000. What will be determined at that date or going into that date will be the scale and scope of that reduction.
But there will be no doubt that that's going to happen. And I know actually -- I look at both of those, and they're not inconsistent. But remember where we were on Afghanistan policy, that war had waxed and waned. And there really hadn't been a focus on how to bring that war to -- and the effort (INAUDIBLE), even with al Qaeda and Taliban, to a point given what was going on in Iraq.
The president raised the troop level and civilian participation to 30,000. This was creating a window of opportunity for Afghanistan. We are now at that point in Afghanistan, and in fact for the first time in eight years, nine years, they're actually meeting their police recruitment requirements as well as their army recruitment requirements. So they themselves can take more and more responsibility for the security of that country.
Second is we're also -- about a half of al Qaeda has been eliminated in this last 18 months. So we're taking the pressure to al Qaeda, taking the pressure to the Taliban. And we're making progress as it relates to, as you know, after the president's meeting with President Karzai, went back to Afghanistan, held a peace jurga.
There is also progress being made on that side. All of this has been predictable in the sense that we knew once we created this window of opportunity, we were going to focus on what are the resources that are necessary, where are we going to be making progress. But the July '11 date, as stated by the president, that's not moving. That's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date. General Petraeus did. Secretary Gates did. As also Admiral Mullen agreed.
And the goal is to take this opportunity, focus on what needs to get done, and then on July 2011, is to begin the reduction of...
TAPPER: But it could be any...
EMANUEL: ... troops.
TAPPER: But it could be any number of people.
EMANUEL: That's what you'll evaluate based on the conditions on the ground. That is -- but what had to happen prior to that was having a date that gave everybody, the NATO, international forces, as well as Afghanistan, that sense of urgency to move.