VoteVets Blasts Obama on Dwell Time
The progressive Iraq/Afghanistan veterans group VoteVets has been, to the best of my knowledge, supportive of a properly resourced and focused Afghanistan strategy for quite some time. But it surprised a lot of people when it announced that it couldn’t support the Obama administration’s “extended surge” on Tuesday. That’s because the group sees the policy as effectively foreclosing on another stated administration priority: increasing the time between deployments of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, known as “dwell time.”
I’ve been curious about the actual fate of the Pentagon plan announced earlier this year to increase active-duty soldiers’ dwell time to two years per yearlong deployment by 2011 ever since I crunched the available troop numbers last month. I don’t quite see how an “extended surge” can last “18 to 24 months” and possibly longer while increasing dwell time. But I haven’t been able to get a clear answer from the Pentagon on whether the plan is actually shelved. In testimony yesterday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated that it is.
In a new post, VoteVets’ Richard Smith (who — full disclosure — is a friend of mine) describes being told straight-up by a senior administration official that the dwell time increase would proceed:
[D]irectly after the President’s speech, I personally spoke with a senior White House official who informed me that all of the service chiefs had reviewed this strategy and that no adverse effects on dwell time were anticipated.
Jon Soltz, the organization’s chairman, questions whether the extended surge will actually roll back troops’ existing dwell time:
This is just one of the troubling consequences of the Obama strategy for Afghanistan. Can we really guarantee Dwell Time for troops at least equal to the length of their deployments? What about ending Stop Loss, or not using the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), or mobilizations that are no longer than 12 months for the National Guard and Reserve? All of those could be in jeopardy. These concerns are why VoteVets.org can’t endorse this strategy. The math doesn’t add up, and Admiral Mullen’s testimony raises more concerns and questions than answers.