What matters isn’t how many troops Obama withdraws this year, or next. It’s how the drawdown supports Taliban peace talks, the only real ticket out of the war. … if Obama’s Wednesday speech doesn’t explain how the drawdown supports a political strategy for ending the war, it’ll mean one thing: he has no idea how to get out of Afghanistan.
One also notes David Brooks' account of the failure of economic aid to assuage the "grudges, tribal dynamics and religious fanaticism" that fuel violence. Ackerman's earlier thoughts on political reconciliation with the Taliban:
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton formally blessed Taliban talks in February; Secretary Gates confirmed … that furtive discussions are underway. Why this isn't the top political priority of the Afghanistan war — hell, the top priority of the Afghanistan war, period — remains a mystery. For years, U.S. officials have spouted the truism that the Afghanistan war is primarily a political conflict, almost as an afterthought, as if they needed to pay lip service to sophisticated opinion. Now it's time to act like it — especially if the Obama administration believes what it tells the rest of us about military progress.