Yesterday, on Fox New Sunday (FNS), Admiral Mullen, (CJCS) firmly told the host that the armed forces make plans in the context of the policy of the Commander in Chief (CinC),the president. He continued to say that when there is another CinC of either party who has a different set of policies, then the armed forces will plan to fit those policies.
General Petraeus said today to Andrea Mitchell (NBC News) that if she or anyone else wants to know if the armed forces can withdraw from Iraq in 16 months, then he needs to be told what his mission is before he can answer the question. He is exactly correct. He, like all US military commanders, operates within the context of national policy. He went on to say that if policy requires a 16 month withdrawal then it will be done. If policy requires a withdrawal that leaves Iraq relatively stable then this will take longer.
The foolish notion that military commanders and ambassadors make national policy has never been anything but a deception and an evasion of responsibility by the political leaders of the US.
Now, the military evidently see that this idea has vast potential for them to be left "holding the bag" in the event of misadventure. As a result they are pushing back against assignment of responsibility where it does not exist.