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December 03, 2009


(to repeat myself from a previous thread)

ISTM that, with the debate splitting between those who don't think escalation (or the war) worth it, and those who think that even an indefinite stay is worth the cost, the strategic value of timetables was eerily forgotten.

From the speech:

"Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan."

Yeah, as long as he means it, I can live with this.

I don't for a moment think it's the case, but it would be remarkable if Obama really were using the 30,000 troops as a Trojan Horse to get a real withdrawal starting in 18 months past the "Praetorian Guard" of COIN-General-Gods who are in a position to sink his presidency with just a few more leaks (at which they'll shake their heads and regret in hushed tones) and innocent Q&A sessions.

Well, I think their resistance played into his decision. So he figures he's got to ante up either way, and if it doesn't work out, those COINdanistas will have less credibility to ask for more in 18 months.

Perhaps, and hope for a better hand because right now he's holding no cards what with having campaigned on resourcing the fight and having what I suspect is no viable alternative in which he had enough confidence to present to us in a way that would neutralize the strong hand of the generals.

To be clear, I don't think this is the case. I think he's all in for all intents and purposes, intends to use all available forces coming out of Iraq in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, and intends this withdrawal only in terms of a slow de-surging of the surged troops, leaving the corpus of our current presence there for the duration of his presidency. But I would be pleasantly surprised if he really started to draw down below current levels in his (sic) second term.

Ah, well. Maybe Ive attended too many military funerals to see any good in this. the goals set can not be met. Period.
We WILL leave, period.
Every Afghan & US kid killed during this ....plan? Am I supposed to call it a plan?- is gratuitous. To "save face" or to protect Dim poll numbers, or to assure the flow of war profiteer "campaign contributions".
This is sickening.

I have sort of the same reaction as you. He's the new PResident, the war is his rewsposbity now and it looks to me like he tried to come up with something that mighht work with the idea that we're outa there if it doesn't. WHich seems to me to be about as responsiblie a way to deal with someone else's mess as is possible.

PResident. Whether intentional or not, brilliant.

But we've been winning for over 8 years now, and here he wants to limit us to only another 18 months of victory. A real president would let us keep winning this war forever.

I certainly hope it works, and I don't (and never did) rate the chance of it doing so as zero. I'm in the UK visiting my family this week and the news is all about Afghanistan. I can hardly say I claim to speak for a whole nation (especially one I have spent only 5 weeks in over the last 11 years), but I do think that there is a different narrative of the post-9/11 period here in which the American failure to commit enough troops to Afghanistan represents a gigantic betrayal of NATO allies. Essentially, the US was attacked, asked for help in Afghanistan, and was willingly granted that help by its allies. But instead of really taking on the Afghanistan problem, it went off to Iraq.

For the UK, since it followed on with Iraq, the problem is a little different. But for Germany and France and other allies that did not want to invade Iraq, there is a completely accurate interpretation of their commitment to help in Afghanistan: every German or French soldier in Afghanistan freed up one American to go fight in a war of choice in Iraq. Or the other way around: every American in Iraq is one who could have been in Afghanistan instead of a soldier from a NATO ally. And people wonder why many NATO allies were upset about Iraq!

In that light there is a way in which the US recommitment to Afghanistan may repair some of the damage done to NATO. No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan forever, but they certainly don't want to be left holding the bag when the US goes all ADHD on the conflict. I argued for a withdrawal strategy, and I am not convinced that 30,000 or 40,000 or 100,000 more US troops will be enough to accomplish the desired goals in Afghanistan. But more troops may be better than the status quo ante. (That's not an argument I made before this, although I thought about it. Maybe I should have, but I thought that side had plenty of advocates already and that it would confuse things to say "We need a lot fewer troops in Afghanistan! Or a lot more!")

This $30 billion comes in addition to the previously requested FY 2010 defense budget of $68 billion for Afghanistan...

The total being roughly 10 times the annual GDP of Afghanistan. You'd think there would be some way to use all that money to resolve this without killing people.

Jacob makes a good point. And it grates that the US is begging and begging for more NATO troops for Afghanistan, despite still having more of its own troops in Iraq. To put it another way: Afghanistan is, judging by troop numbers rather than speechifying, the number one military priority for pretty well every member of NATO, except for the US. For the US, it's a fairly distant second.

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