After earlier reports touting the wonderful success US forces have had recently in smashing the Taliban (indeed, according to Carlotta Gall in the NYT, "routing the Taliban"), we're told by the Defense Dept today that the US has not succeeded in toppling the Taliban. Obviously, not the news the public wanted to hear. But, on the other hand, it certainly prepares us all for the announcement forthcoming from NATO early next month, at least according to Leslie Gelb, who's in a position to know: the departure date for "combat troops" will be 2014, much longer than the July 2011 start-to-withdraw date that Obama promised months ago. As Gelb notes, this helps several people, on several scores: Karzai won't be facing his predecessor's fate of swinging from a lamp post quite so early, Obama won't need to deal with the accusation of "cutting and running" from "the terrorists" when (if?) he runs for re-election in 2012, and Petraeus gets the extension he's been angling for all along.
Of course, how all this gets funded with a probably new Republican-heavy Congress that will brook no tax increases - or cut in corporate profits for Raytheon, General Dynamics, or other weapons-industry Republican stalwarts - remains to be seen.