Obama, Please Be Smart About Afghanistan

Ed. Update: Obama has announced he has ordered an increase of  17,000 troops to Afghanistan.


Tuesday's Wall Street Journal suggests that if President Obama pursues his plans for stepping up the war in Afghanistan, he'll have to fall back on the support of "Bush Republicans and neocons." In its lead editorial, it says:

Already, canaries on the left are asking a la columnist Richard Reeves, "Why are we in Afghanistan?" The President's friends at Newsweek are helpfully referring to "Obama's Vietnam." Mr. Obama may find himself relying on some surprising people for wartime support -- to wit, Bush Republicans and neocons.

The Journal takes note of the growing opposition on the left to an escalation:

The regents are on the ground and commanders are crafting new battle plans: President Obama is girding for a war surge in Afghanistan. Let's hope he's willing to see it through when his most stalwart supporters start to doubt the effort and rue the cost.

In fact, a 60-day review is underway in the White House, and decisions haven't yet been set in stone about Obama's Afghan policy. How many troops he adds, if any -- whether the 10,000 or so that Obama proposed during the campaign or the 30,000 that the generals want -- isn't decided. There are calls for congressional hearings and oversight of Afghan policy. And bloggers, including yours truly, are raising questions and trying to create greater attention to the problem at Get Afghanistan Right.

Strangely, yesterday the White House announced that Obama will decide very soon about adding troops to the mix in Afghanistan. Said Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesman: "I would expect the presidential decision could come shortly." Defense Secretary Gates, the Bush holdover, says that Obama will make a decision within "days." But why would the president decide to add forces before the completion of the strategy review. As I wrote earlier, it's a classic case of "Ready, Fire, Aim."

There are already widespread media reports about the arrival of 3,000 US forces in the area around Kabul. The Chicago Tribune headlines its report: "New U.S. troops in Afghanistan see combat." MSNBC's headline is: "3,000 troops near Kabul mark start of surge." Strictly speaking, these troops aren't the result of a decision by Obama, only the continuation of a beefing-up that was planned in late 2008. As MSNBC's report notes:

The new troops are the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements this year. The process began to take shape under President George Bush but has been given impetus by President Barack Obama's call for an increased focus on Afghanistan.

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