Thursday, November 12, 2009

Which Way Out?

Via the Huffington Post, the AP is reporting that President Obama is planning to reject the plans for Afghanistan that were put forth by his national security advisers because they do not offer an exit strategy.

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama is still close to announcing his revamped war strategy – most likely shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends on Nov. 19.

But the president raised questions at a war council meeting Wednesday that could alter the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Obama’s thinking.

Military officials said Obama has asked for a rewrite before and resisted what one official called a one-way highway toward war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendations for more troops. The sense that he was being rushed and railroaded has stiffened Obama’s resolve to seek information and options beyond military planning, officials said, though a substantial troop increase is still likely.

Thinking beyond the military planning is always one of those nagging elements of winning a war: what do you do when the shooting stops? This is where we get caught in the real quagmire; what’s next? As history has taught us, sending in more troops only emboldens the insurgency against the outside invaders; the more we send, the more we become the target and the harder it is to extricate ourselves without doing it via a helicopter from the roof of the embassy.

We’re always told how terrible it would be if we lost a war, but winning also is a tremendous responsibility. If this is what is keeping the president from rushing to a conclusion, it’s worth the wait.