Barack Obama and John McCain this week shifted their foreign policy focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. Both presidential candidates pledged more troops and aid, and called the defeat of the resurgent Taliban an urgent priority. (The Washington Post)
What the commentators said
The candidates agree that Afghanistan is “a battle that must be taken on and won,” said Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, but their reasoning couldn’t be more different. Obama says Iraq distracted the U.S. from the key battleground in Afghanistan; McCain says the Iraq war is a key part of the larger war on terror and successes there provided a “blueprint” for victory in Afghanistan.
The real difference between the candidates is in their war plans, said Thomas Donnelly in The Daily Standard. Obama proposes moving two more combat brigades into Afghanistan; McCain wants a surge of three brigades, and a doubling of the Afghan army. McCain is looking to win the war, while Obama seems concerned with “simply ending it.”
What Obama wants to do is “get out of Iraq in order to free up troops for the ‘real’ fight in Afghanistan,” said Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog. The trouble is, all we’ve won by boosting our presence there for the past five years has been “steadily less control of the country and a steadily higher body count.”
President Bush is the one who needs to make Afghanistan a higher priority, said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. NATO allies, who were frustrated in 2003 when the U.S. dropped Afghanistan to invade Iraq, aren’t about to “boost their commitment in Afghanistan” until the Bush administration reverses its own “pattern of neglect.”