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.
The options under review are part of what administration officials described as a wholesale reconsideration of a strategy the president announced with fanfare just six months ago. Two new intelligence reports are being conducted to evaluate Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.
The sweeping reassessment has been prompted by deteriorating conditions on the ground, the messy and still unsettled outcome of the Afghan elections and a dire report by Mr. Obama’s new commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Aides said the president wanted to examine whether the strategy he unveiled in March was still the best approach and whether it could work with the extra combat forces General McChrystal wants. [continued…]
With the military and Republicans publicly pressuring him to send more troops to Afghanistan soon and his own administration now deeply divided about how to proceed there, the eight-year war against al Qaida and the Taliban has become an increasingly urgent policy and political dilemma for President Barack Obama.
He can escalate an unpopular and open-ended war and risk a backlash from his liberal base or refuse his commanders and risk being blamed for a military loss that could tar him and his party as weak on national security.
Obama’s decision could be a defining moment of his presidency, and it will reveal much about how he leads. Friends and enemies around the world will be watching — and judging — whether he’s firmly in charge or whether he instinctively seeks some safe middle ground. [continued…]
The push is on for President Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan, perhaps as many as 40,000 more. Boxing in Obama was almost certainly the aim of whoever gave the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward a copy of the 66-page internal memo by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Most of the news stories about the memo have emphasized its conclusion that, without more U.S. troops, the war will probably be lost to the Taliban. But the memo (reprinted in full on the Post’s Web site) says many other things, too. In fact, high up in his report, McChrystal emphasizes that focusing only on troop requirements “misses the point entirely.”
The point that this focus misses, the general writes, is that this is a war against insurgencies and therefore requires “a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign,” in which the main objective is not so much to destroy the enemy but rather to protect the Afghan people—to provide them with security so that the Afghan government can deliver basic services. [continued…]