Thursday, October 1, 2009
Obama Hits Snooze Button on Afghanistan
Barack Obama met with his war council on September 30 for a three-hour discussion of strategy for Afghanistan. An official who attended said anonymously that the meeting highlighted differences among Obama’s top advisers, according to an Associated Press article by Steven R. Hurst and Philip Elliott. Appearing to favor a troop increase are Hillary Clinton, and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus support the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander in Afghanistan. 
But other advisers are skeptical of the idea: Rahm Emanuel, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, and Vice President Joe Biden. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is “on the fence.” Several more meetings are planned and it may take weeks for President Obama to make a decision. 
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan military operation languishes for lack of resources. Gen. McChrystal (who, it was reported, has talked to Obama one time, as contrasted with commanders under G. W. Bush, who frequently spoke to him) has reported that our forces cannot meet their objectives without a substantial number of additional troops.
August, the AP article reports, has been the deadliest month of the war for American troops, with 51 deaths. 
Why is the President so indecisive about a war that he has proclaimed we must win? He was going to track down Obama bin Laden. He was going to invade Pakistan if necessary to accomplish his goals. Now, he seems to be dawdling as American troops are dying. He is sensitive to the fact that American support for the war has decreased. His left wing base is not supportive. Of course, now he doesn’t want to use the word “victory.” How about “defeat”? Is that better?
Not long ago, Obama was adamant about success in Afghanistan:
As reported by Bob Woodward from Gen. McChrystal’s leaked 66-page report to the Pentagon, the commander wrote, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” 
Woodward also reports that Obama is considering several options in addition to the general’s request. “Obama said last week that he will not decide whether to send more troops until he has ‘absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.’” 
It is reported that Obama has scheduled a teleconference with Gen. McChrystal, his second (!) direct conversation with the general.
It is disappointing that although Obama, who, as a candidate, seemed to have supreme confidence about what to do regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo cannot now decide in a reasonable amount of time about Afghanistan. Gen. McChrystal’s request is not exactly new as of today.
Apparently Mr. Obama needs more time, so he can go overseas to promote Chicago for the Olympics, and perhaps to take a few more polls about Afghanistan, or consult with George Soros or whoever. The delay is needed because Obama’s decision will impact his own political future. Meanwhile, American and allied troops must wait a while as danger increases. Decisions, decisions.
 Steven R. Hurst and Philip Elliott, “Obama’s war council divided on Afghanistan,” 10/01/09, Associated Press, at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091001/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_us_afghanistan_44
 Bob Woodward, “McChrystal: More Forces or ‘Mission Failure’”, 09/20/09, The Washington Post (online) at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/20/AR2009092002920.html
Photo: Dreamstime.com (Soldier at border checkpoint in Afghanistan)