With Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan weighing in against any troop surge, President Obama, clearly thrown into a quandary, announced that he is rejecting all four options that have been presented and told his advisors to come up with a different set of options.
Eikenberry, a former army general who commanded US forces in Afghanistan from 2005-2007 knows his subject, so his views carry considerable weight though Eikenberry’s views have infuriated General McCrystal who has advocated sending 40,000 more troops which indicates a lot of infightng at the White House.
Based on reports, Obama was going to send more troops. The question was going to be how many. But Eikenberry has thrown a monkey wrench into the decision by recommending that no new troops be sent at all, citing the corruption of the Karzai government and other factors. Which is now complicating the equation even more.
Adding to the problem is Obama himself, someone who in 12 years of elected office has shown himself to be indecisive, lacking focus, commitment and conviction on just about any issue, ( voting “present” over 100 times during his years in the Illinois state senate, and reversing himself constantly on anything he does take a stand on) and as his critics pointed out during the primary campaign, gave every indication he was not ready from day one for the job.
Many have felt this lack of ability has shown itself on many issues since his taking office, contributing to his plummeting approval numbers and the indecisiveness and backtracking he has shown in supporting the public option during the health care debate.
But when you are dealing with the life and death of US soldiers, it’s clearly a more serious issue. And there can be no backtracking.
With Obama’s approval numbers dropping, the decision on Afghanistan is coming at a politically difficult time, and may prove to be the most difficult decision he will have to make.
Obama, by announcing he has rejected all four options that had been presented is clearly in a deep quandary. He has always made his decisions based purely on politics and now there is no good political decision in the short term.
The real question is actually a simple one and it has nothing to do with whether to prop up the Karzai government. It has to do with whether or not the Taliban represents a threat to US national security or not.
Al-Qaeda has all but been driven out of Afghanistan. But if the US leaves does the Taliban have enough strength to retake the government? And if it does will Al-Qaeda be back and given a safe haven to plan more terrorists attacks on the United States?
The Taliban at one point had been defeated. It was the stupefying incompetence of George Bush and Dick Cheney that diverted troops and resources from Afghanistan where our real enemies were, to Iraq, that allowed the Taliban to regain strength and make a come back. That is something Obama needs to remind people again and again.
The issue is clearly defined. Do we need to defeat the Taliban for the sake of our national security or not? If not then there is no reason to send in more troops, or do anything more than have trainers and advisors there ( with a protection force) to help a corrupt government who, in spite of their corruption,can help defeat the Taliban to prevent them from coming back to power. If we do need to defeat the Taliban for the sake of national security and not the Karzai government then we should do it. Once a decision is made regarding national security, then its a matter of how to implement it.
Obama’s problem is that this decision has nothing to do with his own politics which is going to suffer either way in the short term. And that has him not knowing what to do.