A variety of news reports indicate that President Obama is nearing
a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan. The White House appears to
have decided on an increase, with officials still debating either three
different options on precisely how many troops to send. General Stanley
McChrystal, the top ISAF commander in Afghanistan, had earlier called
for 40,000 more troops, which is reportedly
the highest number Obama is considering sending. One report
says an increase of 34,000 has already been decided. As he nears the
announcement, Obama will have to be mindful of the political situation
in Washington as well as the military situation in Afghanistan.
- Nov. 19th-20th Roll-Out Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin estimates
that, whatever the strategy will be, it announced around November 19th
or 20th. "The review has entered its final stages, with Defense
Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Jim Jones now
taking the lead and putting on the final touches [...] The
a team to Brussels this week to consult with all 43 member nations of
the International Security Assistance Force, including all 28 NATO
nations," he writes. "Sources both inside the government and in the
community in Washington are now standing on high alert, preparing for a
rollout many feel is imminent."
- Heavy On Special Operations Spencer Ackerman believes
that the involvement of two Special Operations admirals signals that
"the internal debate has moved past a rigid choice between expansive
missions to provide security for Afghan civilians and narrowly tailored
missions to find and kill terrorists." How? "They are said to favor
large infusions of U.S. troops to Afghanistan
for performing counterinsurgency operations in select population
centers, but they also advocate marshalling forces to pursue terrorists
across Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous terrain." Ackerman reports
that these admirals favor aggressive use of special forces, including,
as one source tells Ackerman, "small groups of Rangers going wherever
the hell they want to go."
- Must Appeal to Allies Financial Times's Philip Stephens weighs
the political stakes with our heavily-European allies in the war. "No
one is venturing firm dates. The administration cannot afford to
get either the substance or the choreography of this one wrong," he
writes. "Domestic politics apart, the administration needs to carry the
contributing troops, and taking losses, on the ground in Afghanistan.
Carl Levin, the astute chairman of the Senate armed forces committee,
goes so far as to suggest that the president consider unveiling the
plan at Nato headquarters in Brussels. [...] The Europeans, for all the
disquiet of their voters, seem ready for now to stick with the war. "
- Learn From Bush Foreign Policy's Peter Feaver suggests Obama take a page from Bush's political playbook. "President Bush faced far more daunting political odds in January 2007
when he opted for the Iraq surge," he notes. "The
media will focus on the numbers, but the President should focus on
explaining the strategy and demonstrating his commitment to seeing it through
because the numbers are likely to change. [...] The
president will need a convincing answer for why he is authorizing a
smaller surge than McChrystal requested. It is the president's call to
make, but the experience of the Iraq war is a painful one in this regard. Secretary
Rumsfeld still faces scathing criticism for trimming the troop requests of
the original invasion -- for appearing to have authorized a bit less than
needed rather than a bit more than was required. [...] Obama will
need General McChrystal to validate publicly Obama's decision, just as
General Petraeus validated publicly Bush's surge decision."
- Consider Non-Military Interests Matthew Yglesias worries
that discussion over hot to process has been dominated by the military.
"One thing I think this highlights is the limits of conducting this
of debate more-or-less entirely within the four walls of the military.
After all, why wouldn’t the special ops guys want to see as
much resources as possible put into Afghanistan? At the end of the day
to get a real debate going about the wisdom of going big you need
someone in the room who represents a competing claim on the resources
at hand," he writes. "If the meeting also includes
someone who needs to worry about the budget deficit, or about health
care, or about child nutrition, or preventing bridges from collapsing
then maybe this doesn't look like such a great deal."
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