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November 11, 2009

Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch - The Man Alone Version
Posted by Michael Cohen

Is it just me but don't you get the sense these are some lonely days for Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room.

Every day it seems comes a new "leak" that the President is on the verge of sending between 30,000 and 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. First came McClatchy over the weekend saying 34,000. Then CBS News said that McChrystal was going to get close to his request of 40,000 troops for the fight. Now the New York Times is reporting that Secretary of State Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen are all pushing for 30,000. Now perhaps this is an elaborate means of showing how tough the President is when he stands up to hisadvisors and only sends 10,000 or 20,000 troops, but it sure doesn't feel that way (but a boy can dream). Instead, it feels like the proponents of escalation in Afghanistan are doing the same thing they tried to do over the summer: using a pliant news media to force the President's hand on troop increases.

It's a crying shame, because if Elisabeth Bumiller and David Sanger are to be believed, President Obama is asking all the right question about the potential downsides of a military escalation and in particular a counter-insurgency operation:

Officials said that although the president had no doubt about what large numbers of United States troops could achieve on their own in Afghanistan, he repeatedly asked questions during recent meetings on Afghanistan about whether a sizable American force might undercut the urgency of the preparations of the Afghan forces who are learning to stand up on their own.

“He’s simply not convinced yet that you can do a lasting counterinsurgency strategy if there is no one to hand it off to,” one participant said.

Well sure there is that. And it's truly bizarre to read that the Obama White House is openly deriding Afghan President Karzai at the same time that it is considering a long-term commitment to Afghanistan that will basically prop up his corrupt regime - and seek to extend its writ across the country. The issue is far less one of when the ANA will be ready; but whether the Afghan government can lend civilian support to a counter-insurgency operation. Indeed, a chuckled mordantly the other day when I was re-reading AntonioGuistozzi's " Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop" and he noted that in Kunar the Taliban insurgency was less potent because the lack of a government presence "was not able to antagonize local communities." Ladies and Gentlemen: your Afghan government!

Indeed the very questions being asked by President Obama seem to go to the heart of the problems in instituting a counter-insurgency strategy:

Mr. Obama, officials said, has expressed similar concerns about Pakistan’s willingness to attack Taliban leaders who are operating out of the Pakistani city of Quetta and commanding forces that are mounting attacks across the border in Afghanistan. While Pakistan has mounted military operations against some Taliban groups in recent weeks, one official noted, “it’s been focused on the Taliban who are targeting the Pakistani government, but not those who are running operations in Afghanistan

Perhaps someone could explain this to the Washington Post Ed Board or any other joker who continues to conflate the Pakistani Taliban with the Afghan Taliban. But clearly the continued presence of Afghan Taliban safe havens in Pakistan will undermine US efforts to defeat the Taliban - particularly in the South. It really makes one wonder why so many of the president's top advisors are so fervently recommending more troops for Afghanistan, in pursuit of a mission that seems so fraught with problems and seemingly is such a long-shot to succeed.

Of course, as Spencer notes, it would also be nice if a single person in the Administration were advocating for troop reductions - or perhaps making the case that our presence in Afghanistan actually bolsters the insurgency and harms US interests. Instead the template seems to me more troops and a counter-insurgency approach.  With the military furiously pushing both - and leaking that view to the major dailies on a daily basis - I suppose this shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but it doesn't make it any less depressing.


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Obama will likely lose this war for us- he clearly lacks the judgement, dedication, and principle to win such a labrilynthine conflict.

He already was caught dozing while the Russians nabbed the Kyrgizstani air base SO vital to any plans for a US "surge" strategy in Afghanistan-

The clueless Obama (and foreign-policy "expert" Biden) were the most vocal opponents of the Petraeus Surge strategy in Iraq, with Slow Joe coming-up with a harebrained plan to surrender and split the country 3-ways. If America had followed their advice then, Iraq would be an Al Qaida Caliphate by now.

Of course, the media is too preoccupied with articles on the Dear Leader's puppy-vetting process and how he likes to play basketball to call him on these serious strategic errors... reality starting to hit hard now, though

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If Obama's decision is to impress the right wing, he might as well forget it, unfortunately for him he is losing credibility with the ones that voted for him and whose support he needs to be re-elected in 2012.

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