by Michael Barone
“This is not a war of choice,” Barack Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 17. “This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
But that was nearly seven weeks ago. Now it appears that Obama is about to ignore the advice of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom he installed as commander in Afghanistan in May, after relieving his predecessor ahead of schedule. McChrystal, who came up as a Special Forces officer, is an expert in counterinsurgency. Not surprisingly, in his Aug. 30 report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, he recommended a course that seems certain to require a substantial number of additional troops.
During the first three weeks of September, Obama held one meeting on the “war of necessity.” Then on Sept. 20, Obama appeared on five talk shows to push his health plan. The next day, Bob Woodward published a story in The Washington Post based on a copy of McChrystal’s report, which the newspaper later posted in redacted form. Woodward made it clear that McChrystal would request more troops. When questioners pressed him about the war, he said he was rethinking his Afghanistan strategy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad and SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington
Since first invading Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, America set one primary goal: Eliminate al Qaeda’s safe haven.
Today, intelligence and military officials say they’ve severely constrained al Qaeda’s ability to operate there and in Pakistan — and that’s reshaping the debate over U.S. strategy in the region.
Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al Qaeda is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistani and U.S. officials. Conversations intercepted by the U.S. show al Qaeda fighters complaining of shortages of weapons, clothing and, in some cases, food. The number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan appears to be declining, U.S. military officials say.
For Arab youths who are al Qaeda’s primary recruits, “it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,” said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.
In Washington, the question of Al Qaeda’s strength is at the heart of the debate over whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan. On Saturday, eight American troops and two Afghan soldiers were killed fighting Taliban forces — one of the worst single-day battlefield losses for U.S. forces since the war began.
Opponents of sending more troops prefer a narrower campaign consisting of missile strikes and covert action inside Pakistan, rather than a broader war against the Taliban, the radical Islamist movement that ruled Afghanistan for years and provided a haven to al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. Their reasoning: The larger threat to America remains al Qaeda, not the Taliban; so, best not to get embroiled in a local war that history suggests may be unwinnable.
Military commanders pressing for extra troops counter that sending more forces could help translate the gains against al Qaeda into a political settlement with less ideologically committed elements of the Taliban. And, they argue, that would improve the odds of stabilizing Afghanistan for the long run.
A key point of contention in President Barack Obama’s review of war strategy is the ability of al Qaeda to reconstitute in Afghanistan. Some officials, including aides to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S.’s special representative to the region, have argued that the Taliban wouldn’t allow al Qaeda to regain its footing inside Afghanistan, since it was the alliance between the two that cost the Taliban their control of the country after Sept. 11.
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WASHINGTON — President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday
Among the alternatives being presented to Mr. Obama is Mr. Biden’s suggestion to revamp the strategy altogether. Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Mr. Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.
The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan. Mr. Biden has often said that the United States spends something like $30 in Afghanistan for every $1 in Pakistan, even though in his view the main threat to American national security interests is in Pakistan.
Mr. Obama rejected Mr. Biden’s approach in March, and it is not clear that it has more traction this time. But the fact that it is on the table again speaks to the breadth of the administration’s review and the evolving views inside the White House of what has worked in the region and what has not. In recent days, officials have expressed satisfaction with the results of their cooperation with Pakistan in hunting down Qaeda figures in the unforgiving border lands.
A shift from a counterinsurgency strategy to a focus on counterterrorism would turn the administration’s current theory on its head. The strategy Mr. Obama adopted in March concluded that to defeat Al Qaeda, the United States needed to keep the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan and making it a haven once again for Osama bin Laden’s network. Mr. Biden’s position questions that assumption.
Mrs. Clinton, who opposed Mr. Biden in March, appeared to refer to this debate in an interview on Monday night on PBS. “Some people say, ‘Well, Al Qaeda’s no longer in Afghanistan,’ ” she said. “If Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can’t tell you how fast Al Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan.”
Read the rest @www.JulesCrittenden.com Forward Movement-
Chasing Olympic Gold
By Oliver North
WASHINGTON — At the conclusion of the 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind,” Vivien Leigh, playing Scarlett O’Hara, defers decision on what to do about the major crisis in her life with this sentence: “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Unfortunately, the Obama White House seems to have adopted Scarlett’s decision-making process for the war in Afghanistan. Note to the O-Team: Kabul isn’t Tara — and Americans are dying while the commander in chief dithers.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30, a full month after Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted his “assessment” of the situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama convened a three-hour meeting of his “national security team” in the White House Situation Room to “discuss next moves.” According to information subsequently provided by the White House press office, Gen. McChrystal “participated in the meeting” via an encrypted video link, and no decisions were made.
Less than 24 hours later, the commander in chief boarded Air Force One and headed — not to meet with his commander on the field of battle — to Copenhagen to meet with the International Olympic Committee.
His mission: persuade the IOC to select Chicago as the site for the 2016 Summer Games. Apparently, winning Olympic gold for Chicago is more important than winning a war.
Read More From Oliver North on Real Clear Politics
Another American died in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the final day of September–and exactly one month after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan sent a confidential war assessment to the Obama administration, warning that more forces are needed–soon.
The as-yet-unnamed American serviceman who died on Wednesday was caught in a suicide attack in Khost Province, in eastern Afghanistan, press reports said.
On August 30, Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates a war assessment in which he said more U.S. troops–and a new U.S. strategy–are needed if the U.S. is to defeat the insurgents in Afghanistan.
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Why is everything Obama wants to do a “crisis” or “has to be done immediately or else” except send more troops? Mr. President, trust your Military advisors.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )