LAMBRO: Obama’s politically calculated speech

Pullout speech was political calculation for an Election Day boost

PALO ALTO, CALIF.

President Obama’s bullish “new day on the horizon” speech in Kabul wasn’t quite “mission accomplished,” but he came close to that dubious claim.

The trip had the trappings and full-blown rhetoric of a carefully worked out campaign event to squeeze whatever political capital he could from the year-old killing of Osama bin Laden, which is an old story.

In five months, the first combat-troop withdrawals will start taking place, and Mr. Obama, with his job-approval scores still stuck in the 40s, is reaching for any issue he can grab to offset his failures on the only issues that matter to most Americans: the economy and jobs.

In a televised speech to Americans from Afghanistan on Tuesday, he declared that he had succeeded in winding down the unpopular and costly war, which is in its 11th year.

Despite mounting evidence that the Taliban have not forsaken their mission to topple the Afghan government and bathe the country in blood, Mr. Obama said the country was on the brink of “a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.”

Just a few weeks after Taliban forces launched daring new attacks on the Afghan capital’s security forces, here was the president claiming “we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.”

It was a bravura performance, even by Mr. Obama’s often exaggerated, over-the-top standards, flatly declaring that “the tide has been turned” over the past three years.

“We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership,” he said.

But apparently the Taliban didn’t get the message from the president’s campaign headquarters or from his speechwriters.

A mere 90 minutes after Mr. Obama’s departure, Taliban terrorists reminded the president that their ranks have not been decimated and they still can attack the country’s capital with impunity. The war goes on and is far from over.

In a second major assault in Kabul in less than three weeks, Taliban terrorists waged a fierce and deadly strike in the heavily guarded capital despite extra security for the president’s visit. Seven people were killed, and 17 were wounded as explosions shook the city for hours.

Press reports said the attackers not only “breached the defense perimeter” in Kabul, they claimed responsibility for the latest attack and brazenly announced their “spring offensive” will begin Thursday, when they will unleash a new effort to retake lost territory.

Yet there was the president claiming the United States essentially had achieved its goals and the Afghans were ready to take over full responsibility for their country’s national security.

That struck news correspondents there as dubious at best and foolhardy at worst.

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