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Tilting at Windmills

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November 24, 2009

AFGHAN ANNOUNCEMENT A WEEK FROM TODAY.... After a lengthy review process, President Obama reportedly has all the information he needs to craft a new U.S. policy towards Afghanistan. We'll hear all about it in a televised address to the nation a week from tonight.

For two hours on Monday evening, Mr. Obama held his ninth meeting in the Situation Room with his war council.... The president's military and national security advisers came back to the president with answers he had requested during previous meetings, most of which focusing on these questions: Where are the off-ramps for the military? And what is the exit strategy?

The conversation settled around sending about 30,000 more American troops, two officials said, the first of whom would deploy early next year to be in place in southern or eastern Afghanistan by the spring. The troop reinforcements would likely be sent in waves, according to an official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss war strategy. [...]

While the president is expected by several of his advisers to announce sending more than 20,000 new troops - perhaps closer to the 40,000, as recommended by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal - the White House is working to make the announcement more than simply a number of troops. It will include an outline of an exit strategy, officials said.

That last part is obviously key. The decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan will not be popular with many of the president's own supporters, many of whom believe the longest war in American history should come to an end. But if the White House has not only decided on the size of an escalation, but also a larger, revamped strategy that features a light at the end of the tunnel, the administration's new policy may address at least one underlying concern.

In terms of what to expect, leaked reports have varied considerably over the last several weeks, but McClatchy reports that the administration will approve 34,000 additional troops. In terms of the politics, Republicans are likely to attack, not because of the escalation, but because they'll think the escalation is a brigade or two short. But this will be rather silly. As Spencer Ackerman recently noted, "[L]et's say that McClatchy is right and Obama goes with 34,000 new troops. Is the Republican Party really going to say that 6,000 troops -- basically one to two Army combat brigades -- are the difference between success and failure? That's, well ... that just doesn't make sense."

The public's reaction to such a decision is hard to gauge. The latest CNN poll, released this morning, offers a muddled look at public opinion -- 45% of Americans said they support the war, while 52% oppose it. The same poll, however, found that 50% support sending additional troops, while 49% do not. So, some who oppose the war nevertheless want to see an escalation?

Nevertheless, we're likely to see a fairly big push on this. After the president's prime-time address on Tuesday (12/1), Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will both likely testify before lawmakers on the new U.S. policy. Expect quite a bit of congressional skepticism.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

God damn it to hell... the preceding story is about the most immoral piece of shit 'politics' I have read since the middle of the LBJ -- no check that -- the early Nixon admin.

God damn it...
what part of "hey hey hey LBJ..."
does the Obama admin not understand?

Posted by: neill on November 24, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

What about the reason we're there? And Pakistan's role? They don't really want us interfering? What about other creative approaches like assisting with their economic growth?

The administration is ignoring all this? I think they've done a horrible job educating the public on how things have gotten worse there, not better, how this could be nothing more than a civil war we're entering..How costly this will be...while our own country is falling apart (literally) at the seams...

No wonder the polls are a mish-mosh.

Most people are clueless, ill-informed and confused.

Posted by: Why the hell are we going? on November 24, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

One book to read is "The Gamble," by Tom Ricks. It lays out the details on a strategy of counter insurgency such as was used in Iraq. Every source I've been able to find on the net says that casualties, both civilian and military, declined after COIN was introduced in Iraq. For that reason, though we're sending more troops to Afghanistan, I don't think it's fair to call this an "escalation." The central tenet of COIN is to protect the population and to reduce fighting to an absolute minimum. More troops, less fighting--that's not escalation. Ricks' book lays it out.

Posted by: Robert Abbott on November 24, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"so, some who oppose the war nevertheless want to see an escalation?"

I didn't see anywhere in the question people being asked if they WANTED an escalation. I think people who oppose the war have different opinions. Personally, I think its a mess there and we can't just pull out. I don't WANT an escalation, but if Obama's rationale and his exit strategy are sound then I'd support it. I don't think its fair to use the word "want" when clearly that was not the question posed.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 24, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

If Rudy Giuliani were in charge we'd have sent in the cavalry long ago and be in mopping-up operations by now.

Posted by: Al on November 24, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Is the Republican Party really going to say that 6,000 troops ... are the difference between success and failure? "

You really need to ask that question?

Posted by: garnash on November 24, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

1 - There are plenty of counter-views about the military science magic of COIN...eg, it got going about the time the civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis was waning. Folks who were in 'inappropriate' neighborhoods of Baghdad found themselves either dead or on the road to Syria...less corpses 'cause they ran out of low-hanging fruit...

2 - Sweet Jesus, when we are straight-faced saying, "so i dont think 20- 30- 40-thousand more soldiers is an 'escalation'..." we are so deeply up the asshole of vietnam war double-talk there aint even light coming from the end of the tunnel...

3 - There is no military solution to Af-Pak. None. So we will hear next week the necessary length of more killing until the 'off-ramps' that Obama is told by military leaders are available.

Here's some off-ramp for ya: Regional support effort at calming the conflict. Negotiating with groups willing to negotiate. loya jurga. even get the damn chinese involved:

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/499869/can_china_help_on_afghanistan

But if Scahill is telling the truth about Blackwater (Nation website), it may be years before we know what is really going on with the Bush-Obama wars...

Posted by: neill on November 24, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Perpetuawar.

How do you look for exit ramps when there is little indication that

the US will quietly exit Afiraqanistan?

Time for some real dollar and sense reckoning. What's our deficit?

How much have we spent on perpetuwar since 2001?

We will continue to lose soldiers at an ever-increasing rate, and

our ability to contain violent extremists will vaporize.

To win a war we have to wage peace.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 24, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

A big mistake if true. Kennedy redux.

Posted by: sjw on November 24, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

This is a classic example of how the inside the beltway, Washington culture can corrupt even the most well meaning individual.

Obama campaigned on ending this wars now he escalating them. He campaigned to reign in Wall Street then proceeded to turn over the reigns to the very people responsible for the mess. he campaigned on health care for all and is now letting the minority party control the debate and most likely the outcome of the final bill, in that the public option will basically be castrated of any real effect.

Face it people, our government is corrupt, it is incapable of change, and will not change until we storm the Bastille.

Posted by: citizen_pain on November 24, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The utter idiocy of the Obama administration is on display here in all it's glory. Thankfully his will be a one term administration....

...sadly this opens the door for the rotting corpse of the Republican Party to come back to life.

One wonders when, if ever, this country really will demand actual changes in our bankrupt foreign policy and all the other areas where our society is....

...FAILING.

On every front, economic, political and societal this gaggle of retreads led by the most clueless President in modern times is saying, "What we need to solve this problem is, 'more of the same...'".

The situation could be described as pathetic if it was not so dangerous.

Posted by: A.Citizen on November 24, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

This decision will lead to the bottom falling out of Obama's support with Progressives, which will make fulfilling other parts of his agenda very very difficult. This could well be the beginning of the end of the Obama Administration. Just speaking for myself, I was as enthusiastic a supporter of Obama as you could find: now, however, after a series of what I take to be serious failures -- on health care, on reforming Wall Street and helping Main Street, on Israel, and now this -- I would hesitate to give Obama high marks, and in any over-the-phone poll would say "disapprove."

Posted by: sjw on November 24, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

wftwh: bury this afghan piece, steve...

maybe throw something up there about the page length of health care reform.

yeah...

but try to avoid the tolstoy angle, you know, "war and peace."
might be too, uh, symbolic -- in a pomo kinda way...

Posted by: neill on November 24, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

I notice that Steve Benen devotes bandwidth to the American public's potential opinion on Obama's evident decision to escalate in Afghanistan, and on what "many of the president's own supporters" may feel about Obama's evident decision to escalate in Afghanistan but, interestingly, does not deign to favor us with his own opinion about Obama's evident decision to escalate in Afghanistan.

What gives?

Howsabout going on the record, Steve? Do you think we oughtta continue (or, rather, escalate) our imperial presence in Central Asia or not? Do you want our nation to continue with (or, rather accelerate) the killing of human beings in Afghanistan, or not?

It's kind of an important subject, Steve. Your eager readership awaits your point of view.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on November 24, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I believe that until we get through to the Pakistanis that their experiment to take over Afghanistan via the Taliban is coming to an end, one way or another, and that their support of the Pakistani Taliban and Kashmiri terrorists in the northwest territories must also come to an end, we're going to have CIA-ISI-Taliban-financed killings of Afghans, Americans, and Europeans going right on, and nothing significant will happen to bring the vast majority of Afghans out of poverty and misery .

Posted by: rbe1 on November 24, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

This second escalation by Obama in his first year in office amounts to a 50% increase in US troops. Just to put off the inevitable withdrawal for another Friedman Unit or two or three.

Such a foolish move, one that shows little understanding of history or the actual situation in Afghanistan. Obama gives further proof nearly every day that he desperately wants to be a one-term president.

Posted by: smintheus on November 24, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I would love for someone to point me to the part of Obama's campaign platform where he said we would withdraw from Afghanistan. I seem to remember something quite different, although we are on schedule to get out of Iraq--which he did in fact promise to do.
Apparently other folks here think that he made a different promise and were duped. I can understand getting mad over a broken promise that he actually made, but this isn't one of them.
I'm not saying I favor an escalation either, but everyone knew where Obama stood wrt Afghanistan before the election, and if you voted for him despite that, then you really shouldn't be feigning surprise and outrage now.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 24, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think Vietnam was longer than the Afghan war. Was there an announcement and I missed it? Everyone is already stating what Obama is doing.

Posted by: Maude on November 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

It only took nine months to plan D-Day.........Obama is now at 100 days .......he needs to get a clue, buy a vowel or something!

The other part of this that kills me is when did we decide it was necessary to announce a "war strategy" to the world, what administration started this. Why in the hell do we find a need to tell the enemy what our strategy is. "Hey Mister Bin-Laden we are pouring in more troops in these three provinces so get ready"....just plain dumb.

Posted by: middleclass and screwed on November 24, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

middleclass and screwed -

It took a helluva lot longer than 9 months to plan D-Day.

Posted by: Giggsisgod on November 24, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It only took nine months to plan D-Day.........Obama is now at 100 days .......he needs to get a clue, buy a vowel or something!

um, so with the average month at 30 days, it supposedly took roughly 270 days to plan D-Day, and Obama is apparently at 100 days determining a new strategy for Afghanistan--so your completely random time limit for deciding on a comprehensive plan for an entire war that's been neglected for about seven years is what--about 40% the time it took to plan D-Day?
I'd have more respect for folks who just say they don't like the president or anything he does and leave it at that. These idiotic rationalizations just make you look like...a bigger idiot.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 24, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

And after much thought Obama has decide to ban only some strains of stem cells from research. Oh wait that was the last time a chief executive gave great thought to an issue.

Posted by: Dale on November 24, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan...the longest war in American history should come to an end.

Phillippine- American War lasted 15 years(1899-1913)

Revolutionary war was 8 years (1775-83)

Vietnam (1959-75) everyone can choose their own start date, but i go by first & last US deaths so 16 years.

Posted by: tarylcabot on November 24, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

There are legitimate arguments to be made both for staying in Afghanistan and for leaving. I don't think those who want to leave are terrorist sympathizers, and I don't think those who think we need to stay are traitors to progressivism. Frankly, I admit to being convinced by neither set of arguments. The fact is, I don't know what the right policy is, and, consequently, I am willing to trust the judgement of this (emphasis on "this") President--at least for now.
But there is a caveat for those who favor getting out of Afghanistan as soon as possible: you may well be right in a geo-political sense. But please, please at least consider what the consequence of that action will almost certainly mean: a Taliban conquest of the country and the resulting condemnation of literally millions of Afghan women to a life of living hell.

Posted by: Chaim Rosemarin on November 24, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

When we stay, we kill Afghans in funeral processions. When we leave, The Taliban kills women in school. Either way, people are hurt and people die. But is it solely our duty to police this place? Must we spend our much needed (even borrowed) treasure to send our women and men over there to die?
There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.

Posted by: mogwai on November 24, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno, maybe it would be better to just wait and see WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAYS? I know, I know, borrrring!!!

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Posted by: Gamada on March 25, 2010 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK
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