Pres. Obama deftly solved a public relations problem in replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus to run the nine-year-old Afghan war, but in so doing he also reopened debate over his deadline to start getting out by next summer.
The next task is to contain what are so far mostly Republican demands to rethink the exit strategy. This is McChrystal's greatest disservice to his Commander in Chief, much more serious than the personal affront of his petty remarks about the President's war team.
This episode threatens to prolong this pointless war unless Petraeus unequivocally sticks to the departure plan. We should carefully weigh what Petraeus says in his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Already, in remarks to reporters, I am hearing wiggle room. While saying he supports Obama's policy, when specifically asked about the withdrawal timetable he talks of making a decision based on "current assessments."
Count on GOP senators to probe such openings, and possibly unearth daylight between what Obama wants and what Petraeus says.
Craig blogs daily for CQ-Roll Call
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