Strange public discussion. Though the CINC and his spokesmen continue to speak Time-Based planning WRT JUL 2011 - the uniformed leadership and SECDEF continue to focus on Conditions Based.
Thing about Conditions Based Planning, you can't reverse engineer it to a calendar. You cannot predict to a month if Decisive Conditions have been met. Additionally - it takes months from the point you make a decision to where forces can start to decrease if measured by total force levels. The only way to do that is if you tell Unit X that they are not deploying to relieve Unit Y. If you plan on forces to decrease by JUL 2011 in an organized manner - the decision needs to be made by Christmas to do it right. That would require you to predict Conditions, something you cannot do.
Now, if in JUL 2011 a Operational Review was completed that stated that, "Decisive Conditions have been achieved at A, B, and C. As a result, we will redeploy units X and Y and when their deployment is over, they will not be replaced." That would be fine ... and force levels would start to drop a few months later - just like we saw in Iraq when Decisive Conditions were met.
Here is my concern. As we get closer and closer to JUL 2011, the CINC and the DOD story lines do not get any closer. I don't see the likes of Mattis and Petraeus fudging conditions - so I wouldn't worry about that. We cannot afford in a Strategic context to have either our uniformed leadership tell happy-talk half-truths for domestic political reasons - again - nor can we have a situation where the civilian leadership and uniformed leadership are in open conflict. Watching this get patched together will be interesting - and in a few years will spawn quite a few Doctoral works.
11 months is not a long time in the Planning world when you are talking about bringing forces home in an orderly manner.
Listening to Petraeus here - the gap is still un-bridgeable. Watch.
MSNBC video can be clunky - so via Allah, here is some of the transcript - though you can get more from the MSNBC site.
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about U.S. troops. I asked you before, when we talked about this July deadline of next year, how stifling is the, the concept of this deadline and this Washington debate to what you’re trying to do here?He is trying hard to give the CINC running room - I hope he takes it.
GEN. PETRAEUS: I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a “responsible drawdown of our forces”…
Let me point out one other item about July 2011 if I could. Because what I have often noted was that in the speech that the president made at West Point, there were two messages. One was a message of substantial additional commitment, additional 30,000 troops, again more civilians, more funding for Afghan forces, authorization of 100,000 more of them and so forth; but also a message of increased urgency. And that’s what July 2011 really connotes. It is to all the participants, those in Kabul, some of us in uniform, again our civilian counterparts, that we’ve got to get on with this, that this has been going on for some nine years or so, that there is understandable concern, in some cases frustration, and that, therefore, we’ve got to really put our shoulder to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progress can be achieved. And, and, again, one manifestation of that is out there that you have this date.