The Obama White House is conducting a review of its Afghan war strategy, specifically whether the effort is going well enough to start withdrawing U.S. armed forces in July 2011.
The review will be used to help President Obama make assessments about the pace of pulling troops out of Afghanistan next summer, according to a senior administration official. "We'll begin in July of 2011," the official told reporters on Tuesday. "What is not clear is the pace of that transition."
The review is being conducted to measure the success of President Obama's 2009 order to commit 30,000 more troops to the war-torn country and will be presented to Mr. Obama sometime in December, and parts of it will be revealed to congress in the following days. "There will be some sharing of findings at the end of the process," said the Obama administration official. "There's also a good deal that we do not intend to make public."
Many senior military commanders and administration officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said they see promising signs of progress in the battle against the Taliban, but also caution that the fledgling Afghan government is a long way from being able to fend off the Taliban by itself.
To that end, U.S. Lt. General William Caldwell, the commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan said today he expects U.S. forces will still be fighting in Afghanistan in 2014. "[Afghan] President Karzai has said they want Afghan security forces in the lead," said Caldwell, during a conference call with bloggers Tuesday afternoon. "It doesn't mean that there will still not be coalition forces here in support of them. But the primary lead for security of this country must have been established with the Afghan security forces in the lead by the end of 2014."
The administration's internal review began around two weeks ago, according to the senior official, with a goal of collecting information surrounding all aspects of the war, including the elimination of senior Taliban and Al-Qaeda officials.
One of the core issues President Obama campaigned on in 2008 was an increased effort to end the war in Afghanistan. However, Republican gains in last week's midterm congressional elections could mean the president will be in for a tough partisan fight over his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan next summer.
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.