The simple fact is that ever since the president announced a July 2011 deadline for commencing withdrawals the military has chafed against what its views as an arbitrary deadline for pulling the plug on the operation. Rather than following Obama's admonition to not send troops into areas that could not be realistically handed over to the Afghan security forces by 2011, NATO and U.S. forces have engaged in a "clear, hold, and build strategy" in places where there is limited chance of turnover any time soon. It's hard to square that approach with a White House that seems desperate to embrace political reality and find the Afghan exit ramp.
But by spinning an optimistic tale of progress -- and pushing stories to journalists that suggest success is just around the corner -- the military could see only a nominal decrease of troops in July 2011. At the very least, it will put more public pressure on the White House to stay the course and fudge the troop withdrawal deadline.