When Napoleon marched his army into Berlin in 1806, he took his generals to the tomb of Frederick the Great, saying "hats off, gentlemen; if he were alive we wouldn't be here." The same could be said of the Obama administration's policy on Afghanistan: without Defense Sec. Robert Gates, we would not be here.
Over the weekend, the Obama administration concluded its Afghanistan policy review, formally committing to prosecute the war until Afghan security forces are competent to undertake the work done by U.S. and allied forces. Control of operations will gradually transition to Afghan security forces as military commanders determine them capable of managing the fight. The year 2014 is aspired to by the Afghan and force providing governments as the date at which such transition would be complete, although the commander in Afghanistan is hesitant to pledge unequivocally that can be met.
This beneficial outcome is diametrically opposed to the president's intention when a year ago he announced the surge of effort in Afghanistan. Having been cornered by his own rhetoric about the good war in Afghanistan recklessly under-resourced by the previous administration, the president accepted the need to increase forces. But in the very same breath as he gaveth, he tooketh away: "as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."