Earlier this week, ThinkProgress produced a graph illustrating the fact that Obama’s “withdrawal” plan from Afghanistan will leave more troops there than were present at the start of his administration. Seemingly in response, Ben Rhodes from the National Security Council posted a counter-chart on the White House blog depicting combined troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan as steadily declining since the administration took office. Unfortunately, in drawing their trend line the White House’s graphics team actually left off several salient data points, creating the illusion of steady decline where there has in fact been a surge followed by an un-surge.
Here’s a corrected chart:
Aside from the additional data points, the key thing to note here is that the White House creates the appearance of a steep drawdown by projecting into the future. As noted in my amended version of the chart, there are actually substantial questions as to whether withdrawal from Iraq will proceed as quickly or completely as official projections indicate. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has stated that Iraq is likely to “ask the United States to maintain a presence in that country beyond the end of this year, when American troops are currently scheduled to leave.” Panetta has further said that “he would support leaving some U.S. troops in Iraq if the Baghdad government makes a formal request to keep the forces in the country after the deadline for a pullout.”
Whether or not the White House’s projection of steadily falling foreign military deployments comes true will hinge on part on whether the president is committed to following through with withdrawal or whether he sides with Panetta on this issue.