Hamid Karzai and NATO would like Afghan forces to take over the country’s security by 2014, a goal Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell calls “aspirational,” as in “There may very well be the need for forces to remain in-country, albeit, hopefully, at smaller numbers, to assist the Afghans as they assume lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

And what about the July 2011 withdrawal deadline promised by President Obama?

Morrell explains:

I’ve seen some of these stories that have sort of suggested that there is an inherent contradiction between July 2011 and the — and the end of 2014. And I think we have always seen these as very much linked and consistent that you would, as the president articulated nearly a year ago, begin the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces come July 2011, based upon conditions on the ground, and then, hopefully, move the Afghans into increasing responsibility for their security.

And don’t even ask the Pentagon flack, as one reporter did, how many troops we can expect to have deployed in 2015 (2015!). That’s what Donald Rumsfeld might call a known unknown:

I think it’s entirely unknowable at this point. I don’t think anybody could tell you with any credence what the force posture will be four years from now. It’s just impossible to know. It just depends. Like, we don’t know, for example — here we are nine months out — less than that; eight months, seven months out from the July 2011 date, and the conditions on the ground are not known to us now about — you know, for July 2011. So we can’t even tell you, for example, how many forces we estimate will be coming out or reinvested come July 2011, let alone, you know, four years from now.

Full transcript of the Pentagon briefing here. More from CNN and Reuters. — PZS

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