Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whither U.S. Afghan policy? How many more troops?


CBS News is reporting that President Obama has decided to send about 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, upping the U.S. military presence to about 100,000 by 2012, which is more or less what McChrystal wanted:

The first combat troops would not arrive until early next year and it would be the end of 2010 before they were all there. That makes this Afghanistan surge very different from the Iraq surge, in which 30,000 troops descended on Baghdad and the surrounding area in just five months.

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The buildup would be expected to last about four years, until McChrystal completes his plan for doubling the size of the Afghan army and police force.

The White House is denying that any decision has been made, which suggests that a decision has in fact been made. Unless there really is tension between the White House and the Pentagon, and unless Jim Jones is right, or, rather, telling the truth:

Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.

Let's hope so. Because it wouldn't be as simple as sending over more troops. Spencer Ackerman:

[W]hy the hell is Obama doing it this way? Because there's little other choice. But you won't know that from reading the CBS piece. Nor will you get any discussion of the obvious question the whole thing begs. If you can’t get these troops to Afghanistan in the time that McChrystal says it'll make a difference ("Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible," McChrystal Review, at section 1-2) then why should we do it?

Good question.

Elsewhere, Jerome Armstrong looks at the political angle:

In no small part, Obama won the Democratic nomination because of his opposition to the invasion/occupation of Iraq, and he strongly opposed the Bush surge there. Now, he many times mentioned about Bush 'taking his eye off of the real war in Afghanistan' or some variation of the sort, but never said anything about sending in tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds, of more troops into Afghanistan. Did I miss that part? There is no way that Obama would have won a Democratic primary had he laid out that sort of plan. In fact, there's no way that we would have had a Democratic wave in '06 and a Democratic tsunami in '08 of wins, had the Democrats campaigned on the bait and switch of leaving Iraq, for Afghanistan.

But now, sources out of the Pentagon are saying that Obama is about to go for his own "surge" of troops as part of a long-term occupation of Afghanistan.

For now though, I refuse to believe that Obama and the Democrats will make this huge a mistake. It's too unbelievably self-destructive to accept.

We shall see.

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