Afghanistan: Does Obama’s strategy make sense?

Assessing President Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan

Finally, we have “a sound and feasible strategy in Afghanistan,” said Frederick Kagan and William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. President Obama has given Gen. Stanley McChrystal the 30,000 new troops he needs to roll back the Taliban and defeat al Qaida. Obama’s decision, announced in a speech last week, was “not flawless”—he shouldn’t have announced that he’d begin to withdraw U.S. troops in July 2011. But with this, his second infusion of troops this year, he will “double” our forces in Afghanistan, enabling us to regain the initiative. This is Obama’s “surge,” said Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post. While not an exact copy of Bush’s last-ditch gambit in Iraq, it has similar elements, including a counterinsurgency campaign aimed at winning popular support and the establishment of clear benchmarks for the Afghan government. “You can’t assume that what worked in Iraq will work in Afghanistan,” but in Iraq, the U.S. demonstrated that “forceful, strategic intervention” can turn what seemed like certain defeat into success.

Some success, said Andrew Bacevich in the Los Angeles Times. George W. Bush invaded Iraq in pursuit of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives to turn a dictatorship into a chaotic land of daily violence and unresolved ethnic and religious divisions. After that disaster, Obama was elected to “reset America’s approach to the world.” Instead, he’s succumbed to the same “illusion” that the U.S. can subdue a borderless, global jihad by “fixing” one desperate, failed state. In Afghanistan, the government we’ve chosen to save, at the cost of more American dead and wounded, is incompetent and corrupt. Even if our troops succeed in shutting down some terrorist enclaves, they will simply reappear in Pakistan, Somalia, or elsewhere. “Under the guise of cleaning up Bush’s mess,” Obama has tragically expanded it.

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