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Pressure to Escalate Afghan Occupation May Result in Obama Re-Focus Away from Nation-Building

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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 11:44 AM
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Pressure to Escalate Afghan Occupation May Result in Obama Re-Focus Away from Nation-Building
With the recent flurry of reports of requests by 'commanders in the field' for the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan - and the hesitation by the White House to offer any echo of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen's apparent desire to further escalate the occupation - there's a question as to where the notion actually originated. The lack of any clear sign that the recent escalation of force has gotten us any closer to either reconciliation or victory over our nation's opponents in Afghanistan may be what has caused President Obama to shy away from outright agreeing with the general, but he's going to be pressed, anyway, in the coming weeks, to (re)define the future of his mission there (in light of the consequences of the Afghan's disputed and widely discredited elections) in ways which will convince Americans that both his commitment and his approach are reasonable and doable. There are signs that instead of tripling the military commitment in Afghanistan, the president is considering focusing most of the military effort in the near future on 'defeating' al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The president has made clear with his declaration of U.S. military goals in Afghanistan that he has increased the commitment of forces there in the belief that al-Qaeda and their Taliban supporters in the region can ultimately be "eliminated or "defeated". However, assessments in McChrystal's leaked memo and by others show the insurgency growing and gaining influence in Afghanistan, despite the increased U.S.-led military offensive and the completion of the elections there which were supposed to produce the political stability the administration has argued is essential to any successes assumed to be achieved by the escalated raids and assaults against the resistance forces.

In televised remarks Sunday on 'Meet the Press', Mr. Obama said the question he's asking those who are advocating increased military presence and action in Afghanistan is: "How does it make sure that al-Qaida and its extremist allies cannot attack the US homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe?"

"If supporting the Afghan national government and building capacity for their army and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move forward," the president said. "But if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration."

That's as clear a statement of reservations from the president about military involvement in Afghanistan as he's offered, so far, as president. Most of his comments about Afghanistan (before the recent elections there) have appeared to be directed toward those who were looking to find some resolve from the new administration to continue the military campaign that candidate Obama had complained was inadequate to the task of confronting and eliminating any threat to U.S. from fugitive al-Qaeda and their allies in the region.

Indeed, even as the White House attempted to put the lid on escalation reports, the republican opposition in Congress looked to pressure the president into following through on his stated commitments to military action and to support the leaked calls for more troops. A "deeply troubled" House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said in a statement that, "It's time for the President to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated," Boehner said, "because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk."

Despite his reticence though, to dig our troops in any further into the Afghan soil, it doesn't look at all like the president is ready to completely abandon his ambitious military campaign to "defeat" al-Qaeda. AP reported yesterday that one alternative to increasing the size of the U.S. military contingent in Afghanistan may be to step up the number of drone (unmanned) aerial attacks on targets in Pakistan. That strategy, however, has been hailed as a success by the military, but panned by the Pakistanis caught in the way of the seemingly arbitrary and tragically collateral U.S. air attacks across their sovereign borders from Afghanistan.

All of the speculation about troop increases stems from a report prepared for Gen. McChrystal from which he's expected to make recommendations for the way forward for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. What may be lost in all of the punditry is that U.S. policy regarding Afghanistan and the region in conflict will ultimately be directed from the White House, not the Pentagon. The president is looking at a number of options which may not necessarily center on the role of just the combat forces which have been deployed to facilitate the elections just held.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yesterday, answered those anxious to promote the yet-to-be-announced requests for more troops, asserting that, "We have a process going on with respect to our strategy in Afghanistan. As the president has said, it's strategy before resources."

"We're soliciting and receiving advice and assessments from a broad range of those who are directly involved , and of course we welcome General McChrystal's thoughts. But that's a classified pre-decisional memo, and we are looking to integrate everything that we're doing, and then of course the president will make his decisions," she said.

Some of the individuals who are attempting to influence the president's Afghanistan policy are apparently having some success in acting outside of the administration. Spencer Ackerman at the 'Washington Independent' reports that neoconservative vigilantes, Fred and Kim Kagan contributed to the Pentagon review which reportedly calls for up to an additional 40,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan, and are now issuing their own call for a 40,000 to 45,000 increase in an article Monday hawking their insider's view of the recommendations in McChrystal's leaked 66-page memo.

More troops to Afghanistan may well be inevitable. Even critics in Congress who have expressed reservations about sending additional troops to Afghanistan (like Democratic Sen. Carl Levin) have spoken about their desire to, nonetheless, provide more U.S. 'training' forces to speed the development of the Afghan military so they, in turn, can provide the future security for their government and their citizens.

Whatever the generals ultimately present to the president as a way forward for the military in Afghanistan, there will need to be an increased acknowledgment of the limits of military power in achieving even the modest political goals set out by the administration. The mixed results of the Afghan elections and the almost negligible effect on the balance of power outside of Kabul (a majority adhering to the tribal leadership of the Taliban and others over the influence and control of Afghanistan's central government) expose the administration's nation-building behind the force of our military as the crap-shoot almost everyone expected it to be.

Facing limited resources (both money and manpower) available to fulfill all of the desires to escalate the occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama is now challenged (either by process or deliberate manipulation of the leaked review) to be more specific about what our future military role is in Afghanistan. It looks, more and more, that our new president is not going to be willing to invest his political capital in defending a unpopular military campaign in Afghanistan at the expense of a focus on his domestic priorities and ambitions. His statement that, he's "not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration," is encouraging. We'll see . . .
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 12:39 PM
Response to Original message
1. .
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 01:21 PM
Response to Original message
2. Anyone who supports troops
or more troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, should be willing to support a universal draft.

It is just wrong to say the US should be there but not be willing to serve. This country is hiding behind the death and destruction of thousands of our troops trapped in the war. Get new troops or get out.
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 02:45 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. nothing stopping anyone
. . . from enlisting themselves. No sense in taking anyone's free will away just to keep some chickenhawk from being a hypocrite. Something about committing generations to military service (alone) doesn't sit well with me. I MIGHT be open to a draft if it included a CHOICE of ALL forms of service, not just fighting and dying.
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 10:52 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. Nothing wrong with universal service.
But if someone voted for a president that is sending guys back for the sixth and seventh tour and he/she isn't ready to back up their vote with some sacrifice of their own, then hypocrisy is sort of implied.

My post was predicated on the fact that those who want fighting and dying to continue were the ones who should be backing the draft. If you don't support Obama's extension of the wars then you are philosophically off the hook. As long as you don't vote for him next time. Vote for the war and you should be ready to do the fighting and dying you send others to do.
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 08:06 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. I agree
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 04:12 PM
Response to Original message
4. .
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shadowknows69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 08:57 PM
Response to Original message
5. Well we might as well destroy the rest of it before we rebuild it right?
The troops I talked to between 2004-05 pretty much said we'd already laid waste to most of the country.
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 09:49 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. we can rebuild them . . . we can make them better
. . . no we can't.

What a waste.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 10:01 PM
Response to Original message
7. Nation building is just as dumb as escalation.
The people of Afghanistan want to be left alone. We have done enough harm already. Obviously they don't mind the Taliban, so why should we prevent them from returning?
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 10:11 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I'm not sure they all 'don't mind the Taliban'
. . . I think they just find our forces more objectionable and dangerous to their existence.

The entire premise of the escalation is flawed. 'Defeating' or 'eliminating' the Taliban from Afghanistan is a pipe dream. Some administration will likely, ultimately use them to pacify Afghans to make way for some enterprise, like the Clinton admin. did during the Unacol days.
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joeycola Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 09:15 AM
Response to Original message
11. Russ Feingold also sent Obama a letter a few weeks ago asking him to
clarify the mission in Afgan.
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. saw that
I wish views like Sen. Feingold's would take precedence in the president's thinking. I expect, though, that there will be a more moderate (although diversified) response from President Obama to the report coming from the defense secretary later this week.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 02:00 PM
Response to Original message
13. Very encouraging!
I wonder how much of this has to do with grassroots pressure. I received e-mail from Robert Greenwald this morning, beginning with this sentence: "Our campaign calling on the Obama administration to Rethink Afghanistan is working".
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 07:11 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. It would be nice
. . . to see a tack in Afghanistan policy to the left. I don't know where the president is looking to for any influence on his policy, but I do know that we have to provide support and acknowledgment when he bends toward our own positions if we expect politicians to amplify and adopt them. The president got into office, I think, mostly, on a wave of objections to Bush's militarism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that, more than any president in my lifetime, this one is ingrained with our progressive cause (even if he doesn't always respond directly to it). Our activism promises to bring out the best in him.
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