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October 07, 2009

Report: Obama Rejects Biden's Afghanistan Strategy. Still No Decision On Troop Increase

Looks like the counter terrorism option is off the table.

President Obama has made it clear to key congressional power-brokers that his administration's rethink of US military strategy in Afghanistan will not see a significant reduction of troop numbers and a narrower counter-terrorist focus on al-Qaeda

...But the meeting produced a sharp exchange of views between Mr Obama and his former rival for the presidency, the Republican senator John McCain, who effectively accused the President of dithering while US troops remain under fire.

According to people at the meeting, Senator McCain told Mr Obama that he should not move at a "leisurely pace" while US commanders wait for a decision on troop levels. The comment drew a sharp response from the President, who replied that nobody felt more urgency than he did about the war and there would be nothing leisurely about his decision.

During a 90-minute discussion, Mr Obama did not show his hand on possible troop increases. But he did make clear that that the war would not be reduced to a narrowly defined counter-terrorism effort in the border areas with Pakistan, a strategy that has been linked with his Vice-President, Joe Biden.

What exactly is the hold up here then? If you aren't going to cut down on troops and go with a counter terrorism option that leaves the counter insurgency plan (unless military genius Obama has a heretofore unheard of Third Option). Obama committed to COIN in March and apparently reconfirmed that yesterday. That means he needs to give the general he picked to implement that strategy the resources he says he needs.

Committing to more troops is a grave decision fraught with peril but it's a simple decision once you have committed to the COIN plan.

Mostly this is political posturing. Adding troops to Afghanistan is not popular with Obama's liberal base (and the with the public at large is divided at best), so naturally President Present doesn't want to go there without trying to get others to cover for him. Plus, it might hurt his health care efforts and that, not Bush's leftovers, is the most important thing to him.

This is the time for presidential leadership. Either COIN is the right strategy to win a necessary war or it's not. Once you have an answer to that (and his answer was yes in March and now), the rest falls into place.

Obama needs to make a decision and convince the American people he is right. Waiting isn't going to make the options any more appealing or popular. Peoples lives are on the line here, literally.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:05 AM

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