Obama’s Exit Strategy – by Jacob Laksin

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Is Barack Obama preparing to abandon Afghanistan? As the president nears his long-awaited decision on the 40,000 troops requested by NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal, that seems to be the grim message emerging from the administration.

The most high-profile signal that the White House may be leaning against sending additional troops comes, ironically, from an administration figure who reportedly favors the troop increase: U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. In a series of classified diplomatic cables to the administration leaked to the press this week, Eikenberry evidently expressed serious reservations about the wisdom of sending troops before addressing corruption and incompetence in Afghanistan’s government.

Eikenberry’s message has been interpreted as a way of putting pressure on President Hamid Karzai, whose victory this month in a disputed and fraud-plagued national election has undermined the legitimacy of the central government and fueled the Taliban insurgency. Yet it is equally plausible that, intentionally or not, Eikenberry’s warning could serve to immunize from the administration from criticism should the president choose to reject General McChrystal’s request for more troops. That possibility appears all the more likely when one considers that Eikenberry himself is an Army general whose résumé includes a stint as commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But while Eikenberry himself is said to support a troop surge, he may be a minority within the administration. Vice President Biden has made no secret of his preference for a dramatically scaled back mission that reduces the number of American troops inside Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has long been a skeptic of expanding the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, citing concerns about the U.S. “footprint becoming too big” and American being seen as an occupation force.

Evidence suggests this may also be the president’s view. Just this week, an unnamed “senior administration official” told media outlets that the president may decline to endorse any of the Afghanistan strategies proposed by his national security team – each of which, as it happens, entails troop increases of varying size. According to the same official, the president wants to make it clear that the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is not “open-ended” before – and if – he decides to commit additional troops.

On their face, concerns about Afghanistan’s internal politics are eminently reasonable. Not only is corruption rife in the central government, but its ability to control the country is very much in doubt. President Karzai’s troublesome links to Afghan warlords have long raised eyebrows. It is also sensible to propose that the United States should have some assurance that adding more troops could turn around the rapidly deteriorating situation, not least because the American public now questions what is achievable in Afghanistan. According to one poll released this week, 56 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan, while 58 percent are now against the conflict as a whole. The decision to risk American lives for a mission in which the country has lost faith cannot be made lightly.

Yet there are still reasons for the U.S. to honor its commitment to Afghanistan, and for the president to approve the troops that his leading general inside the country has requested. While the security situation remains perilous, some progress has been made. Thanks to the improved security afforded by this year’s earlier increase of 38,000 American troops, the majority approved by President Obama, Afghans now have more open schools, including for girls, and more access to health care. There has also been a reduction in the poppy crop – the financial engine for much of the Taliban insurgency – with some provincial governors pushing for curbs to poppy growth. However modest, these are steps in the right direction.

Just as important as what has been achieved in Afghanistan is what may befall the country if the military strategy is not given a chance to succeed. In October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that if the Taliban were to retake control, “there is every reason to believe” that the country could relapse into its earlier role as a haven for al-Qaeda and other transnational jihadists. General McChrystal has come to the same conclusion. His request for 40,000 troops is intended as part of a broader counterinsurgency campaign to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and pull the country back from the abyss.

There can be no illusions that the decision to send more troops is a difficult one. In a week when the Fort Hood massacre has brought the tragedy of lost military lives so close to home, the choice to order more Americans to the frontlines of the war on terror seems especially agonizing. But Fort Hood is also a reminder of the threats that the United States faces oversees, the fanatical ideology it confronts, and the stakes in a struggling war that a troop surge could yet salvage.

  • Robert Bernier

    Better see it before it's pulled.

    Without comments…

    No one should miss this video:

    http://xrl.us/bf29mb

    Look to the end ( 10 min.)

  • cedarhill

    It's been a hard decision for Obama because it's taken a long time to get the political narrative correct. If you review this Administration's Afghan history you'll find a series of positions floated to gauge reaction and to let American's usual feelings about foreign wars to build. They've found the “corruption” issue to be the one that can be used to justify delays amounting to withdrawal. It has and will always be a domestic political decision for this White House.

    They needed to reach several political objectives: (1) move the funding of the war effort to their domestic spending spree, (2) give the anti-war rabid dogs a bone, (3) give the appearance of being strong against terrorism and (4) neutralize Petraeus as a possible opponent in 2012. With what has been announced this week they must think they've hit on brilliant solution.

    First: corruption is a way of life throughout that region and has been for centuries. Second: the warlords are the government in many area and have been for centuries (think about an area with no roads).
    Third: Elkenberry had been passed over for a fourth star and, if you know anything at all about the military, creates a universe of resentment. By enlisting him to a high position they (a) have military cover and (b) a willing dupe, should the need arise, to be used against the folks that drummed him out of the service.
    Fifth: The Pentagon and Petraeus and McChrystal have not rolled over as evidenced by the Cogenhagen meeting where, basically, McChrystal was simply ordered to shut up.
    Sixth: Make no mistake that Petraeus does not fully understand his career is over and that he has been hung out to dry.

    The events that will unfold will be Obama announcing some troop “buildup based on goals” harkening back to all those Iraq benchmarks. He'll then proclaim he's given the military “substantially what they've asked for”. He'll end up with two culpable parties: Afghan government and Petraeus. The first because “corruption” will not be contained in our lifetimes and the second because the action plan failed.

    If Petraeus accepts “the plan” then he's toast. If he disagrees he may even be removed ala Truman. If he resignsthe attack dogs just start early.

    The only real issue is whether Obama's strategy will fire on all counts. Regardless, Afghanistan is history with only the number of American soldiers yet to be killed to be determined.

  • ApolloSpeaks

    While there are no good options for Obama in Afghanistan, politically there is no good outcome for him either. Afghanistan will be one of many factors in domestic and foreign policy turning a disastrous leftwing presidency into a necessary catastrophe for destroying the secular progressive left.

    Google ApolloSpeaks (one word) for my writings on Afghanistan.

  • http://netzero.com/ Steve Chavez

    Obama waiting for disaster, tragedy, car bombings, and most importantly, MORE AMERICAN COFFINS TO TAKE A PHOTO-OP WITH!

    His excuse will be like this: “We don't want more of flag-draped coffins do we?”

    He's waiting for that LASER-GUIDED MISSILE to go astray that will hit a milk factory due to “bad intelligence” THAT PROBABLY WAS GIVEN TO THE COMMANDERS ON THE FIELD BY OBAMA'S CRONIES!

    IS HE HOPING FOR MORE AMERICAN DEATHS SO HE CAN END IT COMPLETELY? He'll say: “Look at those poor kids without a father and right before Christmas!” (Didn't Obama cancel he National Day of Prayer but celebrated a Muslim holiday?)

    OBAMA TO THE TALIBAN: “HURRY UP GUYS! THEY'RE STARTING TO BLAME ME AND WE SURELY CAN'T HAVE THAT SO BUILD A BIG ONE AND MAKE IT GOOD! HURRY!!!”

  • Steve Chavez

    Is Russia/Putin aiding the Taliban, and others, directly or indirectly, as revenge against the United States for aiding in the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan in the 80's?

  • USMCSniper

    President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday that American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have their trust betrayed like those who served in Vietnam.

    “If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that there have been times where we as a nation have betrayed that sacred trust,” Obama said, marking his first Veterans Day as America's commander-in-chief.

    We shall soon see.

  • USMCSniper

    President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday that American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have their trust betrayed like those who served in Vietnam.

    “If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that there have been times where we as a nation have betrayed that sacred trust,” Obama said, marking his first Veterans Day as America's commander-in-chief.

    We shall soon see.

  • BS77

    If the US and allies summarily quit Afghanistan….Pakistan and Afghanistan will be under jihadist seige….there will be a slaughter of all infidel sympathizers…and the barbarians of the Taliban and Al Queda will resume the destruction of all liberties, returning the devestated societies to the Dark Ages….as they were before 9/11. Women will again be turned into imprisoned slaves. Children will have no protections from slave work and abuse. And, our troops will have given their lives, so politicians in DC could shrug over the plight of Pakistan and Afghanistan, then “move on” to other matters. If you haven't read 1984 or Animal Farm…read them now.

  • Dustoff

    If O-bummer doesn't wish to support our troops, then bring them home.

  • stryker714

    BS77 you are so correct. And if we leave Afghanistan there will eventually be another terrorist attack on their favorite target – New York. How quickly the in-denial politicians have forgotten 9/11. DC will wish they had stayed the course in Afghanistan once the next terrorist attack is planned, organized, implemented from there. Didn't most believe Flight 93 was destined for the white house? Oh well hope da house has some good ground to air missiles ready.

  • http://www.goarticles.com/cgi-bin/showa.cgi?C=2149962 watmerter

    Many knowledge in this artical so i am impressed to read this artical.the fanatical ideology it contronts and the stakes in a struggling war that a troop surge could yet savage.

  • etyetydfghfghdfg

    every comunist rag here (90% of MSM) kept on asking Bush daily about “exit strategy”.
    Never seen any of those rags asking 'Bama the same question….

    Of course, there are more important questions (Bama: “my Muslim faith” during TV interview with Charlie the dolt Gibson); the above point is just one of thousand hipocrysies of our “pressssssssssssss”….

  • bubba4

    You're completely off your rocker.

  • bubba4

    Obama never said “my Muslim faith”.

    The Bush Administration promised quick wars with little casualties…that would pay for themselves and we would be out in a few months. So naturally, when the war dragged on for over five years, people were wondering when the hell we were leaving and why it was costing so much.

    The subject of Afghanistan is unavoidable on Television and in every paper…so I don't know how you've missed it…

  • TexasRider

    Bubba4 said that Obama has never said “my Muslim faith.”

    Incorrect!

    If you go the video link at http://xrl.us/bf29mb,, as noted in Robert Bernier's post of two days ago, and wait for minute 0:59 of the 10:00 video, and listen, you will hear Obama say:

    “You are absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.”

    I would take that as a statement that he is Muslim, not that he was accused of being Muslim. And part of his exact words are “my Muslim faith.”

    This part of the video seems to be an interview with George Stephanapoulus (sp?) of ABC News. I have seen this video before and was surprised at all of the Muslim statements that Obama makes. And especially that many of the statements are made as President of the United States.

    We are in deep trouble with this man as President of the United States. Not just because he is a Muslim, but because he is not fit for the job of President of the United States of America.

  • BS77

    It's all about hollow promises and performance. THe unemployment situation is a disaster. Home foreclosures are in the millions. Our Treasury is running on fumes. Over ten states are in virtual bankruptcy. This Admininstration has gone on a frenzied spending binge….that will increase taxes and debt for years to come. THe stimulus packages have done nothing for manufacturing or job creation. No one knows what our foreign policy is….Houston, we've got a problem!!!!