In some of the strongest terms she has used to date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last Friday that the United States will see "a serious drawdown" of forces in Afghanistan by July 2011 and that the House may use the power of the purse to ensure the drawdown takes place.
In an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post, Pelosi made clear that while recent talk has hinted that the administration's stated goal of a June 2011 start date for a troop drawdown may be open to change, her commitment to it remains firm.
"I think we'll have a serious drawdown, I don't think it'll be, as [the president] said, turning out the lights," said Pelosi.
Asked point-blank whether she thinks troops will be pulled out of the country in July 2011, Pelosi replied: "I do. And everything I saw there before, for all the bad things there that I saw in terms of [corruption and money wasted] ... I did consistently hear that the timetable was on schedule to have serious drawdown."
The remarks from the House Speaker will undoubtedly be welcomed by those Democrats and Republicans who have grown increasingly wary of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. With the replacement of General Stanley McChrystal by General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the insistence on a strict adherence to the 2011 drawdown timeline has loosened. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali.) said on Sunday that if Petraeus requests more troops for Afghanistan, the request should "absolutely" be granted. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered much the same during an appearance on "Meet The Press".
The timeframe for troop presence in the country, however, depends in large part on Congress's willingness to cut the check. And in her sit-down with the HuffPost, Pelosi hinted quite strongly that she may not have the votes to pass war appropriations without conditions attached for paring down U.S. military operations.
"I don't know how many votes there are in the caucus, even condition-based, for the war, hands down. I just don't. We'll see what the shape of it is the day of the vote," she said.