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Obama Can't Downsize to Success in Afghanistan

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
September 28, 2009
Los Angeles Times


During last year's campaign, Barack Obama stressed that while he wanted to withdraw from Iraq, he was no pacifist. "As president," he said on July 15, 2008, "I will make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win."

He began to make good on his word on March 27 when he announced a "comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan" that included 21,000 additional troops. The goal, he said, was to "reverse the Taliban's gains" and "prevent Afghanistan from becoming the Al Qaeda safe haven that it was before 9/11."

On Aug. 30, the president's handpicked commander in Afghanistan delivered a plan to do just that. Implementing his counterinsurgency strategy, Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote, "requires more forces." If extra troops are not sent, and soon, the "likely result" would be "failure."

One would expect, based on his past statements, that Obama would rush to give McChrystal the forces needed to win what the president described in August as a "war of necessity." Yet that's not the case. The White House has been sitting on the general's report for a month, refusing to allow him to submit his resource request or testify to Congress and leaking to the news media that the president may decide to downsize the entire war effort.


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