Back to today: President Obama made it clear yesterday that he is not considering a significant drawdown in Afghanistan.
More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in our country.
None of these demands were met. And now, the Taliban will pay a price.
By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.
Initially the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.
This on the same day that his Secretary of State said this:
President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.
Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,” as White House officials later described his remarks.
...we're, you know, we're trying to look at it from ground up and make sure that we're examining every assumption, because what's important is that at the end of the day, the president makes a decision that he believes in, that he thinks is going to further our core objectives of, you know, protecting our country, preventing attacks on us, trying to protect our interests and our allies. [emphasis mine]All the recent talk about "looking at it from the ground up" would seem to imply that the President intends to determine the most appropriate objectives in the region and (with the guidance of his theater commander) how best to achieve them, then decide what resources are necessary to execute that approach. Of course, if we're limiting any such "new approach" to something that doesn't really dramatically differ in strategic intent or resource application from the current approach or the old approach, then we're not really starting from the ground up or with a blank sheet of paper, are we?
And so now we're in the worst of all possible worlds: the President seems to be signalling that he accepts GEN McChrystal's assessment, acknowledges the necessity for a wide-ranging counterinsurgency campaign, but disagrees with (or is uncertain about) the general's recommendation about troop numbers. All of which seems like a recipe for status quo ante and everyone being unhappy.
So I guess we're back to the question I asked a couple of weeks ago in reference to another statement by Secretary Clinton: who are the people out there who think that we can wage an effective counterinsurgency with the resources we've currently got in country? And if those people do exist, what's their plan?