It seems to me that he is not sending all the right messages with such a quick timetable for surge and withdrawal. On the one hand it does send the message to our Afghan allies that they must get their act together sooner rather than later, but What? about the messages this sends to the more neutral or negatively lined against us. I think it would have been much wiser to sketch a 5 to 6 year commitment verses one that for practical purposes lasts a year to a year in a half. If the Taliban are smart they will use the next year to do a lot of intimidation and not very much fighting.
Update: I've thought about it some more and think publicly announcing a date for deescalation is messed up, and just plain stupid. If you are going to put a timetable on this surge it would be far wiser to keep that information top secret and only share it with a small number of the most important Afghan officials. That way they get the message, but the Taliban and the neutrals don't. I think Obama took a huge and unnecessary risk by his public comments committing to a timetable for withdrawal.
Update: This is What? I regard as the best part of the speech:
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
This said I think there was too many gratuitous moments and I find Obama's self reverential personal regard obnoxious.
The speech could have been a whole lot better, I give it a C.