Obama’s decision: 34,000 troops to Afghanistan

posted at 8:48 am on November 24, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

McClatchy reports that Barack Obama made his decision last night on Afghanistan, and has decided on a number between McChrystal’s medium- and high-risk plans.  Instead of 40,000 or 20,000, Obama will send an additional 34,000 troops to bolster the NATO forces and employ the counterinsurgency strategy that he publicly demanded for two years and made official US policy in March.  However, McClatchy also reports that Obama won’t announce the new numbers until next week:

President Barack Obama met Monday evening with his national security team to finalize a plan to dispatch some 34,000 additional U.S. troops over the next year to what he’s called “a war of necessity” in Afghanistan, U.S. officials told McClatchy.

Obama is expected to announce his long-awaited decision on Dec. 1, followed by meetings on Capitol Hill aimed at winning congressional support amid opposition by some Democrats who are worried about the strain on the U.S. Treasury and whether Afghanistan has become a quagmire, the officials said.

The U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and because, one official said, the White House is incensed by leaks on its Afghanistan policy that didn’t originate in the White House.

Perhaps part of their reluctance would also be that Obama threatened to fire anyone who leaked information about his decision.  The comment about “not originating in the White House” seems odd, too.  Did the White House want to pin the leaks on the Pentagon?  Sourcing these as “US officials” makes it as generic as possible; that term could apply to an EPA clerk.

The new plan contains the “off-ramps” Obama demanded from his national security team.  Those begin to arrive as early as June, according to McClatchy, giving the US a few easy outs if Obama chooses to retreat.  If the “political side” or the war itself doesn’t improve, Obama apparently wants to get out altogether.  In other words, this looks like McChrystal’s last stand.  Next week, McChrystal will return to DC in order to help Obama roll this out, where Obama will almost certainly get significant pushback from Democrats in Congress over the cost and the need to keep fighting.

The increase in troops is a good decision, but the off-ramps almost completely undermine it.  The point in extending our footprint is to win the trust of the local communities and prove our reliability in providing them security, which is the central thrust of McChrystal’s COIN strategy.  By getting them to trust our commitment, we can get them to help fight the Taliban themselves, as we did with the Anbar Awakening in Iraq against al-Qaeda, and greatly improve the intel we get from the locals.   If we send 34,000 more troops but give ourselves a six-month time frame for success or bug-out, the locals will very  quickly come to the realization that allying with us will be suicide.  The COIN strategy only worked in Iraq because George W. Bush was adamant that we would stay until we won.

A Commander in Chief doesn’t need “off-ramps.”  Any President can call an end to a deployment based on his own judgment.  Putting these conditions into the American strategy signals weakness — a desire to pull out without getting blamed for the decision.   Obama wants to be off the hook for an eventual withdrawal by claiming that he’s forced to do it because of these benchmark failures.  And if Obama’s that keen to retreat, he should just do it now.

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The bottom line is that without Victory in Afghanistan, the next major terrorist attack will be nuclear in nature.

Subsunk on November 24, 2009 at 2:15 PM

That’s quite a leap. I don’t think even McChrystal is arguing that. Pakistan, and probably soon Iran, has nuclear warheads. Afghanistan does not and most of the surviving AlQ who were in Afghanistan are now in Pakistan. There are probably a lot more AlQ in Sudan now than are left in Afghanistan. There may even now be more AlQ in Great Britain and the U.S.A. than there are left in Afghanistan. Besides McChrystal has said “We don’t win by destroying the Taliban. We don’t win by body count. We don’t win by the number of successful military raids or attacks, we win when the [Afghan] people decide we win.” AND “Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us — physically and psychologically — from the people we seek to protect.”

You misunderstand my meaning. If one nuclear weapon is detonated inside a US city by terrorists, I can guarantee that the country will demand complete and utter destruction of every Muslim country on the Earth.

I very seriously doubt this. Even I who am so anti-Islam as to think we have no business Islamic Nation Building and that Islam itself is a crime against humanity, not “radical” Islam, but Islam itself, orthodox Islam, would not demand what would be by far the biggest genocide the world has ever known, and I don’t believe any President, Barack Obama or otherwise, would ever do anything at all like that, although hopefully whomever was President at the time would not engage in yet another Islam is ROP/Islamic Nation Building extravagance.

It is amazing how the death of 4 million Americans in a flash will panic and enrage the sleeping US giant. We will not go quietly into the night, I can assure you.
Subsunk on November 24, 2009 at 2:39 PM

I have no idea where you get a number nearly as high as 4 million (and in a microsecond as you said above, which would mean another million at least during the following days) as that would take a hydrogen, not atomic, bomb.

MB4 on November 25, 2009 at 3:20 AM

that would take a hydrogen, not atomic, bomb.

Either than or a Mother of all Atomic bombs even in NYC. If AlQ ever does get an atomic bomb it will likely be more of the “suitcase” variety.

MB4 on November 25, 2009 at 3:23 AM

A Commander in Chief doesn’t need “off-ramps.” Any President can call an end to a deployment based on his own judgment. Putting these conditions into the American strategy signals weakness

Obama’s Ausfahrt Doctrine

BDU-33 on November 25, 2009 at 4:06 AM

Ahh yes, Obowma’s war of necessity reduced to a war of party politics. What a douche.

dthorny on November 25, 2009 at 6:37 AM

that would take a hydrogen, not atomic, bomb.
Either than or a Mother of all Atomic bombs even in NYC. If AlQ ever does get an atomic bomb it will likely be more of the “suitcase” variety.

MB4 on November 25, 2009 at 3:23 AM

How many people live and work inside a 5 mile radius of the Empire State Building, or perhaps the UN building? Choosing the appropriate time of day and delivery for a one megaton bomb, which could be stolen from the Russians or Chinese, or developed by the Pakistanis easily since their first detonation in the 1970s, how many folks do you surmise could be killed in the initial blast and how many would die within 30 days from panicked evacuations, blue on blue civilian attacks, the breakdown of law and order, radiation, burns, etc….?

If Pakistan falls (a relatively likely possibility), or if Iran develops and fields a hydrogen bomb (which is a much easier development once you have the atomic weapon in the first place), you place a great deal of faith in the kindness of the Muslim religion to keep nuclear devices from the hands of terrorists bent on our destruction, and the ignorance of Muslim scientists and their inability to develop such weapons. As I recall, however, America is full of Indian and Pakistani engineers who do extremely well in designing and building and developing complex construction and engineering projects all over the world. Their contributions to science and engineering are far outstripping the requirements necessary to build a hydrogen bomb. I have zero faith that the Pakistanis are too stupid to develop such weapons. But if you feel safe in those assumptions, keep on trucking.

Since the eventuality in this discussion has already been wargamed, I leave you with the Three Conjectures.

Case closed.


Subsunk on November 25, 2009 at 8:52 AM

By the way, the bottom line in a nuclear exchange is who do you and your family wish to survive in a war prosecuted by Islamist extremists upon our country? In an all or none, struggle to the death between Islam and its adherents, and the rest of civilized society? I’ll bet if faced with sure extinction for failure to retaliate, you would find the American people are not that much different than the tribal warriors engaged in hand to hand combat with their fiercest enemies. When Death is your alternative, 300 million Americans are unlikely to say, go ahead and hit us with another nuke. We won’t really hurt you. We’ll just turn the other cheek. Pushing the button to annihilate the most vicious enemy we’ve actually faced in combat since 1975 will seem like a no brainer after a nuclear detonation over Central Park.


Subsunk on November 25, 2009 at 9:00 AM

OB’s earned a new nickname–Bug-Out OBama–BOOB

BottomLine5 on November 25, 2009 at 10:44 AM