Maybe military officials believe they’re above time in Afghanistan, maybe they’re covering for a confused chain of command, or maybe protracted warfare has this effect on an occupying force.
Joint Chief of Staff Michael Mullen stressed in May, “I think with the troops that we put on the ground there, that over the next 12 to 18 months, we have to dramatically change the security situation and stem the tide.”
Fast forward 7 months.
"We have 18 to 24 months," Mullen told Marines at Camp Lejune. "The slope on this insurgency is going in the wrong direction and we have got to turn it around."
Since when did 12 to 18 months become 18 to 24? According to Mullen’s dating, President Obama has 5-11 months to turn the situation around. He held the line at 12-18 months from May until October; at least sticking to one figure is furtive. 18 to 24 months is brazen, warping his own words and pushing Obama's July 2011 deadline into 2012.
Technically December 2011, which is of no use to his re-election.
Were Mullen to offer an explanation why his time keeps on slipping, like progress on the ground, then his prediction would make more sense. But he has not.
Last March Mullen told CNN’s State of the Union, “I said last September, in my testimony in Congress, that I didn't think we were winning, although I thought we could. And I would also agree that if we're not winning in a counterinsurgency, we are losing... a situation that we're in right now.”
So the war was being lost in September 2008 and March 2009. Today?
“We are not winning,” Mullen told the crowd point blank, “which means we are losing and as we are losing, the message traffic out there to (insurgency) recruits keeps getting better and better and more keep coming. That's why we need the 30,000 and in particular, and you are the lead on this, getting in there this year, over the next 12 months, almost in lightning bolt fashion."
Obama's hesitation forced this urgency. Clearly the war hasn’t improved to the point of believing America has gained extra time in Afghanistan. There is no other explanation to Mullen’s device other than to shield Obama, which bought him eight months. A good soldier for sure.
But his logic - and by extension the White House and Pentagon's - isn’t stacking.
"We've had an increasing level of violence in the last three years in '06, '07, and '08, and I think in '09 and '10, we have to start to turn that around," Mullen said in May.
"I expect a tough fight in 2010.”
The situation didn’t turn in 2009, leaving 2010 as the do or die year. But 2010, like 2009, will flash by before Obama knows it. He’s going to have huge problems if the insurgency surges into 2011 and 2012.
Will the window stay open, and how long will America will keep running?