- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
- U.N. warns of Muslim ‘cleansing’ in Central African Republic
- Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases
- Drug mix may have cured child born with HIV, doctors say
- De Blasio’s wife irks former mansion chef with ‘servant’ remark
- Russia’s neighbors shiver amid Putin’s Cold War moves in Ukraine
- New SAT: The essay portion is to become optional
- Military group can’t march to honor the fallen at Boston Marathon due to security changes
- Senate passes bills deleting ‘retarded’ from laws
- China announces biggest military hike in 3 years: We are not ‘boy scouts with spears’
On Afghan war decision, stakes never higher for Obama
President Obama will attempt to persuade the American public this week that more time, troops and money will accomplish what eight years of effort and no outside power in history has been able to achieve: a measure of military success in Afghanistan.
The details and justification for Mr. Obama’s new war policy will be the focus of a major address at the West Point military academy in New York Tuesday. It comes after months of study and preparation, and is widely viewed by foreign policy experts as the most consequential decision of his short tenure in office, carrying with it the potential for enormous costs both in human lives and increasingly scarce financial resources.
“The significance of the decision cannot be understated,” said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who assisted Gen. David H. Petraeus with strategic planning for the U.S. war effort in Iraq and now teaches military history at Ohio State University.
“The president’s decision, coming after so many weeks of study and commentary, will set the strategic direction of the conflict in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mansoor said.
The strategic direction of the eight-year conflict has been the focus of an intensive internal debate at the White House that began over the summer and has since consumed nine lengthy meetings in the Situation Room. There, Mr. Obama has allowed his top generals, his senior foreign policy advisers, his national security team and his political aides to debate whether the country should invest more resources in the hopes of bringing security and stability to a lawless place, or whether the military should begin a drawdown that would leave a more limited and surgical force in place to suppress al Qaeda.
The nation’s top general in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, presented the president and his team with a range of options that included troop commitments which are reported to have ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 on top of the 64,000 who are already there. But resource commitments were only part of the equation.
There was a larger question of what the U.S. wanted to accomplish in Afghanistan, and whether those goals were either essential to American security, or achievable.
Nathaniel C. Fick, a Marine veteran who heads the Center for a New American Security, said the president appears to be prepared to endorse Gen. McChrystal’s plan for a broad counterinsurgency strategy aimed at stabilizing the populated areas in Afghanistan, and eventually training a home grown force to maintain that security. That effort is likely to take 30,000 to 35,000 additional American troops, and another 5,000 soldiers from NATO allies. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed Wednesday that several NATO countries will send the additional 5,000 troops.
Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Mr. Obama began a disciplined rollout of the details of his plan, with targeted leaks, quiet conversations with congressional leaders and foreign allies, and statements designed to prepare the public for this week’s formal war speech.
On Tuesday, 12 hours after concluding his final war council session, Mr. Obama told reporters gathered at a brief press conference that he considered his review to have been “comprehensive and extremely useful.”
He repeated his contention that the American goal was not to build Afghanistan into a modern, well-functioning state — something that most experts think is well beyond the capability of any outside force. Instead, he said, it will be to turn the largely lawless and hardscrabble corner of the globe into a place that is sufficiently stable so al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively.
“We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan’s stability is important to that process,” the president said.
The president will have to persuade not only the American people that it is the right course, he also will have to convince members of his own party who are not convinced the nation can afford to keep the war going. He faces challenges on both fronts.
A recent Washington Post poll found that 52 percent Americans see the war in Afghanistan as not worth its costs and only 45 percent approve of how he is dealing with it, while 48 percent disapprove. That support is even worse, 39 percent, among independents, a key constituency for the White House. At the same time, three key Democrats in Congress, all of whom have a role in apportioning money for the war effort, wrote a joint letter to Politico outlining their concerns about the cost of escalation in Afghanistan.
“Like most Americans, we are concerned about the wisdom of significantly enlarging and lengthening our commitment to a war that is costing hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of our brave men and women in uniform,” Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin, John Murtha of Pennsylvania and John Larson of Connecticut wrote. “If the President does decide to engage in an expanded counterinsurgency strategy, hard nosed realism also obliges us to ask: How will we pay for this?”
About the Author
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- Aronofsky's 'Noah' banned in Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates
- Christine O'Donnell eager to re-engage in political debate
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- DELAY: A revolution for the Constitution
- PRUDEN: Likening Putin to Hitler on Ukraine shows Hillary's shaky grasp of history
- Back to the Future: HUVr Tech marketing video goes viral with hoverboard release tease
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again