24 Aug

Obama’s Can Do War

U.S. Military Says Its Force in Afghanistan Is Insufficient

By HELENE COOPER, August 24, 2009


BAGRAM, Afghanistan — American military commanders with the NATO mission in Afghanistan told President Obama’s chief envoy to the region this weekend that they did not have enough troops to do their job, pushed past their limit by Taliban rebels who operate across borders.

The commanders emphasized problems in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents continue to bombard towns and villages with rockets despite a new influx of American troops, and in eastern Afghanistan, where the father-and-son-led Haqqani network of militants has become the main source of attacks against American troops and their Afghan allies.

The possibility that more troops will be needed in Afghanistan presents the Obama administration with another problem in dealing with a nearly eight-year war that has lost popularity at home, compounded by new questions over the credibility of the Afghan government, which has just held an as-yet inconclusive presidential election beset by complaints of fraud.

The assessments come as the top American commander in the country, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has been working to complete a major war strategy review, and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described a worsening situation in Afghanistan despite the recent addition of 17,000 American troops ordered by the Obama administration and the extra security efforts surrounding the presidential election.

“I think it is serious and it is deteriorating,” Admiral Mullen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics.” He added that General McChrystal was still completing his review and had not yet requested additional troops on top of the those added by Mr. Obama.

The American commanders in Afghanistan spoke this weekend with Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past two days, Mr. Holbrooke visited all four regional command centers in Afghanistan, and the message from all four followed similar lines: while the additional American troops, along with smaller increases from other NATO members, have had some benefit in the south, the numbers remain below what commanders need. The total number of American soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan is now about 57,000. It was unclear whether the commanders told Mr. Holbrooke exactly how many additional troops might be required………………………………………..

The White House has been concerned about declining support for the war among the American public. After recent polls illustrating the decline, Admiral Mullen and Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired general who is the ambassador to Afghanistan, went on Sunday talk shows to discuss the direction of the mission.

“I’m certainly aware of the criticality of support of the American people for this war and in fact, any war,” Admiral Mullen said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And so certainly the numbers are of concern. That said, the president’s given me and the American military a mission, and that focuses on a new strategy, new leadership, and we’re moving very much in that direction.”

He said, “I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Another 12 to 18 months just to start to turn this thing around?!   Complete madness!

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Stephen McGlinn

I told everyone a year ago that Afghanistan was Vietnam redux. Formidable terrain, a civilian population who living with war for 30 years, border areas that are porous for the enemy but not for us. Need any more similarities?

Yes, this will be another Vietnam – and we’re not going to get out even if we want to. Because now, unlike Vietnam, we are after an enemy who’s attacked us on our own soil.

Leaving Afghanistan would be political suicide for President Obama. He won’t do it. Too bad. Our sons and daughters will pay the price.

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