There are a number of good reasons for the Obama administration to review the plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The election of an Afghan president has yet to be settled; a runoff may be necessary.The strength of the Taliban insurgency has nearly quadrupled since 2006. Reuters reported that, "A U.S. intelligence assessment, showing the number of fighters in the insurgency has reached an estimated 25,000 from 7,000 in 2006, spotlights Taliban gains and the tough choices facing President Barack Obama in trying to reverse the trend." Senators are beginning to take one side or the other in the debate. Senator Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, came out early as opposed to sending any more troops. More recently Senator Inouye, heading the Appropriations Committee, is supporting General McChrystal's plan. Glenn Greenwald, writing for Salon.com, on Tuesday effectively analyzed what is at stake in this for Democrats.
Arianna Huffington led the political news headline lists on Wednesday with her provocative piece titled, "Why Joe Biden Should Resign." Like so many other readers, my first thought was, "my goodness, what has he done now?" And I immediately clicked on the HuffPo article. Well, the Vice President's only transgression was to do what the man who chose him expected. Joe Biden staked out the other end of the spectrum of the escalate-now view. And Huffington's article calls upon Vice President Biden to resign in protest if the military's escalate-first view becomes the centerpiece of the administration's strategic plan.
U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.
So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.
Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.
Roger Simon, also of Politico, wrote an excellent and very clear-eyed piece last month that discussed the evolution of the United States mission in Afghanistan over the years. The terms used were "mission creep to mission gallop." The pace or destination is central to the administration's current strategic planning project. Simon's stark conclusion is one with which I tend to agree.:
So send more troops, or lose the whole shooting match. It is easy to see why the memo was leaked. The Pentagon does not want Obama to go wobbly on Afghanistan. It wants him to stay and fight. And stay and stay and stay.
“I don’t have a deadline for withdrawal,” Obama told David Gregory on “Meet the Press” Sunday, “but I’m certainly not somebody who believes in indefinite occupations of other countries.”
But if Iraq was George W. Bush’s war — and it certainly was — Afghanistan has now become Barack Obama’s war. He wasn’t the president who started it, but he can be the president who finishes it.
Or he can be the president who stays there indefinitely.
Because I am not one of the high profile journalists featured in today's post, I am a bit reluctant to weigh in myself. But I will. My vote for President Obama was predicated upon his commitment to get out of Iraq and go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. I believed that the U.S. needs to finish the job ignored by the Bush administration. That does not mean replay Iraq in Afghanistan. It is time to get back on point — pursuit of Al Qaeda.