Friday, October 02, 2009

Is Obama Giving Up on Afghanistan

Apparently the president feels that the Chicago Olympics is more important than the War in Afghanistan that he campaigned on as a must win. I hope that's not the case but th following story from CanWest News doesn't bode well for the people of Afghanistan nor the Soldiers who have fought, shed blood and died there.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan for private talks aboard Air Force One on Friday amid new signals White House officials are deeply divided over a request to send up to 40,000 more troops to fight the eight-year-old war.

The 25-minute meeting between Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal occurred in Copenhagen, where the U.S. president had travelled to support Chicago's unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics. It marked the first time in months the two men had spoken in person about deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan, and as McChrystal wages an unusually public campaign in favour of a U.S. troop surge.

The four-star general had been in London only hours earlier delivering a speech in which he rejected a proposal - reportedly being pushed by Vice-President Joe Biden - to narrow the focus of U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

"Gen. McChrystal expects that the president and others are going to ask him questions about the assessment that he's made," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "and that we're going to ask questions of our diplomatic side, of our intelligence side, and of all of those involved in this to get the best strategy for success in Afghanistan."

Mr. Obama is in the midst of a prolonged review of the U.S. role in Afghanistan and as the Pentagon warns the American-led NATO mission could fail within a year unless there is a dramatic overhaul of the coalition strategy.

Gen. McChrystal is lobbying for the White House to embrace a shift in strategy that focuses on greater protection of the Afghan population, while placing less emphasis on winning tactical victories over Taliban insurgents.

The commander last week informed Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, he needs 30,000 to 40,000 additional American troops to meet that task. In a classified review of the war that was leaked last week, McChrystal warned a failure to reverse the situation in Afghanistan within a year could produce "an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

But Gen. McChrystal's recommendations have been met with deep skepticism among some of Obama's most senior advisers. Mr. Biden was among the administration officials who challenged the assumptions behind Gen. McChrystal's request during a three-hour meeting of Obama's war council on Wednesday in the White House's Situation Room, according to the Washington Post.

Among the biggest questions being asked in the White House is whether the Afghan government can be a reliable partner in economic development and improved governance - especially in the wake of ongoing corruption and the still-disputed August presidential election.

The U.S vice-president and others in the White House are said to favour maintaining U.S. force levels at 68,000, while stepping up surgical strikes on al-Qaeda targets inside the country.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates, meantime, is tilting towards an endorsement of Gen. McChrystal, CNN reported Friday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not publicly indicated whether she favours more troops.

Gen. McChrystal dismissed as "short sighted" the idea of narrowing the focus of the war in a speech to the Institute for Strategic Studies in London on Thursday, prior to his meeting with Mr. Obama on Air Force One.

"The short answer is no," McChrystal said when asked in London if he would back a scaled-down strategy that emphasized targeting al-Qaeda with unmanned aerial drones.

Since taking office last January, Mr. Obama has committed 21,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan as part of a strategy that linked stability in Pakistan to the outcome of the Afghan war.

But with American public opinion souring on the war, Mr. Obama has come under increased pressure from Democrats in Congress to reject a military surge.

He has also faced criticism from Republicans, who say the White House is taking too long to conduct its review of the war. Until Friday, Mr. Obama had not met face to face with Gen. McChrystal since the summer, although they spoke via teleconference on Wednesday and on another occasion in August.


tom said...

Personally, I hope President Obama does not give up on Afghanistan, but, as in Vietnam, OUR allies have to want it as much as we want it for them......besides, you guys are going to leave soon, right?
Also President Bush IGNORED this theatre of war for 8 years, THAT is the real cause of the present situation.
I don't want to see the US leave, I see those poor folks being re-Talibanized if US and UN leave...

membrain said...

We'll be leaving "soon" if you define 2011 as soon. By then our Army will be literally broken so not much choice.

But Canada will most likely be involved in other roles that would fit in with GEN McChrystal's COIN plans if he's allowed to implement them.

For an excellent analysis of how the people of Afghanistan can avoid re-Talibanization please read