From the sound of testimony from the administration's war council on Capitol Hill yesterday, that timeline is definitely flexible and seems more like a political carrot than a firm deadline for withdrawal. But the announcement of both a surge and a timeline for departure is still a contradiction. It is one that probably makes the most sense with the circumstances and consequences we face in Afghanistan, because we haven't given the fight what it will take, yet we cannot stay there forever.

Still, Obama didn't seem to make the sale on Tuesday night. As I wrote in my column this week, he didn't seem to convey the resolve required to convince a war-weary public that this contradition makes sense and that the battle is still worth an additional 30,000 of our young men and women. You could imagine the firm toughness a President Clinton would have shown in that speech, or the gritty resolve a President McCain would have displayed, but Obama didn't seem aware that his doubts spread doubt. 

Vague on details and lacking strong conviction that this time he has found a plan that will work, Obama made a speech that probably doesn't do his well-thought-out policy the justice is deserves. Time will tell.

Ask A.B. returns Monday, December 7th. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to Thank you.