Sunday, December 6, 2009

Uncertain payoff...

On December 1st President Obama laid out his plan for Afghanistan... (full transcript here). A "surge" of an additional thirty thousand troops to be sent post haste, and for a defined (sort of) period of time... In essence a roll of the dice that the situation will improve in eighteen to twenty-four months, and that additional forces will make a difference...

There has been support and brickbats from both sides of the political spectrum. The November 8th, 2009 blog entry, 'Hyperbolic trend?' looking at previous agreements by the administration, and remarked that "... a close reading... showed that a sufficient degree of ambiguity was included which allowed the various parties to 'agree' to the formulations, without actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" This speech had some similarities in that it tried to square the circle, and appeared to try and satisfy both those who believed in a "surge" and those who favored a pull out.

Normally this might have been an adequate speech, but after the months of deliberation that had gone into deciding on which strategy to follow it was rather anticlimactic. It contained no new or particularly different, approach or concepts.

The rationale for this decision rested in equal parts 9/11 and appeal to authority ("And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.")

The President enunciated three objectives, to "... deny al Qaeda a safe-haven... reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government... and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future." While the first is self-evident, it is not at all clear that slowing, halting, or even reversing the Taliban's momentum is sufficient... As long as they have the ability to stick around they will not have lost. It is also not clear that the simple addition of troops will have more success in achieving the buildup of the Afghan government, a task that has proven elusive for a number of years. And even this puts aside the question as to whether building up the central government and/or the ANA/ANP (as representatives of the central government) is even the best strategy to pursue (Ed note: this blogger believes it is not...).

The U.S. troops are to be augmented by "our allies." And in fact, soon after some 25 countries offered up another five thousand troops in support. While this is very positive from a political standpoint (demonstrating "wide support"), this blogger is not sure how useful it is from a military standpoint (given the fragmentation, and subsequent issues that will be present integrating them).

The President took pains to emphasize that he was dealing with a bad situation not of his own making... Unspoken but implied was that it was the fault of his predecessor. Well and good. However, even if he gets a free pass on the situation thus far, with this decision he has made it his full and entire responsibility. No more excuses.

Transcript: Obama's Afghanistan Speech
U.S.: Obama Had Rejected His Own Speech's Surge Rationale
Afghanistan: Can Obama Sell America on This War?
A plan in need of clarity
Something from nothing: U.S. strategy in Afghanistan

Previous blog posts referencing Afghanistan:

Random chart - Dec 6th, 2009
Afghanistan snippets - Dec 4th, 2009
Random charts - Nov 21st, 2009
Random pictures - Sep 13th, 2009
Random picture - Sep 9th,. 2009
Random chart - Aug 23rd, 2009
Random picture - Jun 26th, 2009
Misc. updates - Jun 11th, 2009
Misleading info - Nov 22nd, 2008
Grotesque - Jul 22nd, 2008
Registered identity - Jul 2nd, 2008
On the road to extinction - Jun 27th, 2008

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