Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 12, 2009

OBAMA ON AFGHANISTAN: NONE OF THE ABOVE?.... As a rule, I've grown rather skeptical of anonymously-sourced reports about what President Obama "will do" or "has decided" about the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. There's been plenty of reporting on the process and deliberations, but reliable indications of what's to come have proven hard to come by.

That said, this AP report suggests the president has been presented with a series of options, none of which he finds compelling.

President Barack Obama won't accept any of the Afghanistan war options before him without changes, a senior administration official said, as concerns soar over the ability of the Afghan government to secure its own country one day. [...]

He remains close to announcing his revamped war strategy -- troops are just one component -- and probably will do so shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends Nov. 19.

Yet in Wednesday's pivotal war council meeting, Obama wasn't satisfied with any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, one official said.

The president instead pushed for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government. In turn, that could change the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official.

The president is, not surprisingly, well aware of the effort to dictate the process, and rush him into escalating the U.S. presence. But the more Obama is pushed, the more he's inclined to push back with a stronger resolve.

The Pentagon won't like this. Obama's apparently doing it anyway. Good for him.

The White House call for altered plans coincides with new concerns from Ret. Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, who has put in writing his "reservations about deploying additional troops to the country." Eikenberry knows of what he speaks: he once served as the top American military commander in the country.

During a meeting yesterday, Obama pressed Eikenberry on his concerns. The NYT said the "central focus" of the president's questions was "how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw." One official added that the president "wants to know where the off-ramps are."

Don't we all.

Steve Benen 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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The right is going to have a freaking field day with this and try to paint Obama has dithering. Of course, there's really nothing he does they don't lose their minds over, so ...

But given how disastrous every other plan has been so far, I don't see how Obama has many other options here. He HAS to get this right, and that includes some sort of end goal where we get out, but leave a better nation behind. Why that's so hard for some to understand is beyond me.

(IMHO, troops -- sending or withdrawing -- have to be considered to be just a small part of this thing. Local gov't institutions that work, basic services and, most importantly, jobs have to be the focus. They just have to be.)

Posted by: Mark D on November 12, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

The sooner we are out of Afghanistan, the better. It is undermining our economy, it is undermining our military. If Obama raises the level of troops, even in the short term, he is making a huge mistake.

Posted by: sjw on November 12, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl and Yellow Dog kicked off their roundup with this bit last night. As they put it, squawking and the yellow feathers of chickenhawks will fill the air today.

Posted by: Realist on November 12, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

To quote Laurel & Hardy, "This is a fine mess you (GWB) have gotten us into."

Vietnam Redux. The ghost of LBJ troubles the sleep of Obama. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 12, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Recall that the purpose of going into Afghanistan was to rout out Al-Qaeda. That has been done. Why are we still there? The rationale continually morphs.

As Orwell put it in 1984:

"The primary aim of modern warfare...is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living...The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence in the long run too intelligent."

Couple that sentiment with what the banksters are being allowed to do and to get away with, the state of health care and its barons, corporate monopolies, etc. Kind of puts some perspective on things, I think.

Posted by: terraformer on November 12, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Unless we develop a comprehensive South Asia strategy, the most we can hope for is a temporary peace in Afghanistan.

What would such a strategy look like? Well, at the very least it requires some moderation of the strategic competition between India and Pakistan. Without attention to this aspect of the problem, we really are only playing around at the edges of the conflict.

For more, see http://bit.ly/3vYHPk

Posted by: Scott on November 12, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

"None of the above" seems to be the motto of the BHO presidency. Why else are so many executive and judicial posts going unfilled? It's because so few Americans can pass the rigid ideological purity test that the White House politburo has established.

Posted by: Al on November 12, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the Bush administration was a 'perfect storm' or arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and corruption. They did just about everything wrong. And now Obama is supposed fix this CF?

The Karzai government is corrupt -- from the top where President Karzai protects his druglord brother and pardons political allies, down to local police who take people off the streets and hold them until family or friends come and pay a "fine".

Sending more troops to prop up an illegitimate, corrupt and unpopular government would be a mistake. That strategy certainly didn't work out well for the U.S. in Vietnam.

Personally, I think the only way to make this mess come out right is for NATO to withdraw, let the Taliban take over again, and then re-invade, this time with adults making the decisions.

Or at least Obama could threaten Karzai with that unless he cleans up his act.

Posted by: SteveT on November 12, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Obama is really trying to win the Peace Prize. Pull the troops, GTF out, let the Afghans have their country, miserable as it may be.

Posted by: Trollop on November 12, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I hope, oh so much, that this report it true. If Obama really is thinking about the long term of how to get out of there, then that alone fully justifies my vote for him, so far as I'm concerned.

It is a sign of how far this country has fallen that merely having a president capable of seeing the bigger picture is something to celebrate. Even so, here we are.

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 12, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

There are no exit ramps.

The whole point is perpetuawar.

We are in Afghanistan for the drugs and in Iraq for the oil.

Prove me wrong.

(I realize that Iraq has some drug production and Afghanistan is crucial for gas pipeline infrastructure)

Don't for a minute think we are in these two countries simply killing bad guys.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 12, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

it would truly be remarkable of obama took a stand on af-pak war that initiated real diplomatic negotiations and got us the hell out.

there are beaucoup plans and suggestions out there from experts -- for regional assistance in organizing a loya jurga and regional pledges to work for peace among the groups involved.

an outer circle of nations like china, russia, india (& the us-nato bunch) could help assist making things happened on the regional level.

Posted by: neill on November 12, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Prove me wrong."

This liberal lady would like to remind you, Tom, that the burden is on you to prove yourself right, not on anyone else to prove you wrong.

Let's start with Iraq. Obama laid out a very specific sixteen month time-table on withdrawing from Iraq. He campaigned on it and put it into action after the inauguration, and he hasn't missed it yet. Can you give me a good reason not to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on that?

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 12, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary and then McCain based a major part of their campaigns against Obama on the premise that he was too inexperienced and weak to stand up to anyone. Now he has to deal with foreign and domestic adversaries thinking that he will cave if they stand their ground. It makes for long face-offs and it doesn't help that he has Rahm wringing his hands over 2012 constantly. Karl Rove did incredible damage to the Bush administration with his too-cute political machinations and now Obama has his own Rove.

Posted by: Th on November 12, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

If only the Prez would push Larry Summers and Tim Geithner so hard.

Posted by: curm on November 12, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Advice from Gorbachev - Get out now. He would know. From a military standpoint, traditional victory would require overwhelming force, which everyone agrees is out of the question. The best we can hope for is to improve or at least stabilize the situation at the ground level via schools, hospitals and security - and some kind of reasonably well-functioning government.. though it will probably look pretty different from what we're used to..

If, with terrorists and nuclear arms in the mix, the world cannot afford failed states, then *all developed nations are going to have to contribute the resources to deal with the problem. The U.S. cannot continue to do the lion's share of the work without undermining our economic and social health for many years to come.

Posted by: FC on November 12, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

"Now he has to deal with foreign and domestic adversaries thinking that he will cave if they stand their ground."

Um, he hasn't "caved" on any foreign policy issue yet. He's trying to make sure whatever strategy they use going forward will actually, you know, work.

That doesn't mean any of them will. Just that he's not making any rash decisions. And given the situation, caution is a damn good way to approach it.

Posted by: Mark D on November 12, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

If true, this is change I can believe in. I also second curm that he should also apply the same scrutiny to Summers and Geithner.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 12, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is Obama's Cuban Missile Crisis moment. All the military advisors want war, but escalation is the wrong choice. Obama needs to stand up and say "no."

Posted by: CN on November 12, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

The government is so concerned about this war in Afghanistan. But you know what I’m concerned about? I’m concerned about our soldiers, especially the ones who don’t come home at all and their loved ones.
I found this interesting though…

Posted by: billy37 on November 25, 2009 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK



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