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Obama Advisers Backpedal on Afghanistan: "There Is No Timetable;" "We're Not Talking About an Exit Strategy"

Over the weekend, David Petraeus, James Jones, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden told various news outlets that 2011 is not a hard deadline for withdrawal.
 
 
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In his Afghanistan policy address last week, President Obama said we would "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011." In a series of in-depth profiles of the behind-the-scenes conversations that took place in the lead-up to this pronouncement, the Washington Post and New York Times report that the President wanted a strategy to get in and get out.

"The military was told to come up with a plan to send troops quickly and then begin bringing them home quickly," the Times writes. “He had asked for a plan to deploy and pull out troops quickly,” writes the Post. Looking at a bell curve that laid out the timetable for the deployment and withdrawal of U.S. troops, Obama reportedly told his advisers: "I want this pushed to the left." The Times writes, "wIn other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner."

But as administration officials touted the President's Afghanistan strategy this morning on the Sunday political talk shows, they underscored that the U.S. troops may not be coming home in 2011:

Gen. David Petraeus: "There's no timeline, no ramp, nothing like that." [Fox News Sunday]

National Security Adviser James Jones: "It is not a cliff. It is a glide slope. And so certainly, the President has also said we are not leaving Afghanistan." [CNN State of the Union]

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Well, first of all, I don't consider this an exit strategy. And I try to avoid using that term. I think this is a transition." [ ABC This Week]

Watch a compilation:

 

Faiz Shakir is the Research Director at the Center for American Progress and serves as Editor of ThinkProgress.org and The Progress Report.