Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal

"That is the question," Pelosi replied.

"But that's my question to you," Amanpour pressed.

"Well we will, as I said, we will see the metrics as they unfold in the next few months," the Speaker said.

Mixed Signals on July 2011

"July 2011 is not the end. It is the beginning of a transition," Gates said. "Drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers."

Pelosi said she hoped the transition in a year would be more significant than administration officials have made it out to be.

Last month on "This Week," Vice President Joe Biden said that the transition "could be as few as a couple thousand troops" come July 2011.

"Well, I hope it is more than that," Pelosi said. "I know it's not going to be turn out the lights and let's all go home on one day. But I do think the American people expect it to be somewhere between that and a few thousand troops."

Amanpour pointed out to Gates that the Taliban sees July 2011 as a withdrawal date and is trying to run out the clock. She showed him a video of counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

The Taliban, he said, "believe that we had stated a date certain, that we were going to leave in the summer of 2011. And they immediately went out and spoke to the population and said, the Americans are leaving in 18 months, as it was then. What are you doing on the 19th month? Who are you backing? Because we'll still be there and they won't be."

"So many people are arranging their schedules for the summer of 2011," Amanpour told Gates. "What can General Petraeus do to defeat the Taliban at their own game? What can he do now in Afghanistan to avoid this deadline that they're setting for themselves?" she asked.

Gates insisted that July 2011 was not a deadline. "Well, first of all, I think we need to re-emphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011. We are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks, [the] pace [of which] will depend on the conditions on the ground," he said.

"The president has been very clear about that. And if the Taliban are waiting for the nineteenth month, I welcome that, because we will be there in the nineteenth month and we will be there with a lot of troops," Gates said.

Last December, the President said that the United States would "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011 ... taking into account conditions on the ground."

Reconciliation with the Taliban?

Is the only way out of Afghanistan to strike a deal with the Taliban?

Gates said any reconciliation with the Taliban would be up to the current Afghan government and would only occur when the Taliban were "degrade[d]" enough to consider a negotiated settlement.

"The way out is to improve the security situation in Afghanistan to the point -- and to degrade the Taliban to a degree -- where they are willing to consider reconciliation on the terms of the Afghan government: detaching themselves from al Qaeda, agreeing that to abide by the Afghan constitution, agreeing to put down their weapons," the defense secretary said. "Those are the conditions that reconciliation must take. But it must take place on the terms of the Afghan government."

"And you think that can happen in a year?" Amanpour asked.

"Well," the defense secretary said, "we're not limited to a year."

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