Monday, December 07, 2009

Obama's DTR with Afghanistan

I'll admit, I was fairly skeptical of McChrystal's plan during the three months that President Obama took to deliberate and consider his new strategy toward the War in Afghanistan. However, upon hearing his speech, I felt much more encouraged about the possibility of success there. Although seemingly try to please everyone with one plan, I supported the President's decision to send more troops despite hesitant support from his party and the obvious increased cost for the new policy in a time where voters would appreciate that money being spent on domestic nation-building. I was convinced he made his decision based on convictions of US national security rather than political motives. And I was happy to hear about a strategy to end the war by beginning to pull out in July of 2011. Obama was largely successful in pleasing both sides - even my own internal dichotomies.

At least for about 24 hours....

Since then, I have become less convinced of clear strategy towards the Afghan War based on the conflicting statements from the President's speech, statements from SOS Clinton and SOD Gates, and the numerous NYT articles saying that there are "No Firm Plans for a U.S. Exit in Afghanistan". I can only imagine that the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India are equally confused.

During his conference call with the Patterson School, Stephen Biddle, of the Council on Foreign Relations, talked about how working with the "good Taliban" would be increasingly difficult if the Taliban thought that they would come back into power once the Americans left. The "good Taliban" are less likely to switch sides and work with the United States if they believe that they will be marginalized if the Taliban reasserts its power in Afghanistan. Perhaps that isn't part of Obama's new strategy to work with the Taliban, but I think the waffling time-table certainly complicates things.

As much as I would like for the US to be done with Afghanistan, I don't think the President has done himself any favors by emphasizing a withdrawal date in his speech and the rest of his administration has spent the last week backtracking and clarifying what the President meant. I had no problem with the time that President Obama spent on deliberating over the decision and believed he would come out with a clearer plan because of it. I certainly would have expected such a glaring contradiction to be covered and well thought out.

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