No surprise that he backs McChrystal, but given his record in Iraq, saying so obviously carries a lot of political weight. On the other side, leading the “no more troops” charge inside the administration: Um … Joe Biden, who of course opposed the surge too.
Among the alternatives being presented to Mr. Obama is Mr. Biden’s suggestion to revamp the strategy altogether. Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Mr. Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.
The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan. Mr. Biden has often said that the United States spends something like $30 in Afghanistan for every $1 in Pakistan, even though in his view the main threat to American national security interests is in Pakistan…
Mrs. Clinton, who opposed Mr. Biden in March, appeared to refer to this debate in an interview on Monday night on PBS. “Some people say, ‘Well, Al Qaeda’s no longer in Afghanistan,’ ” she said. “If Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can’t tell you how fast Al Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan.”
Of course they would. If you’re not holding territory then all you’re doing is playing whack-a-mole with AQ, chasing them from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 2001 and now from Pakistan back into Afghanistan. Besides, if you believe Bill Roggio’s sources, Biden’s strategy is dead on arrival. Predators are effective, and special forces — which I thought, per leftist shrieking, were unusable in Pakistan lest the backlash “create more terrorists” — would help, but the bottom line is that this is a terrain game. And the more area AQ has to maneuver in, the less lethal our arsenal will be.
“Al Qaeda still maintains a deep bench,” a senior official told The Long War Journal. “We’ve hurt them, we’re forcing them to focus more on personal security and leadership succession, but we can’t defeat them like this.”
Numerous al Qaeda operatives, many with a decade or more of experience, wait in the wings to assume leadership roles. Many are based in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Yemen…
Al Qaeda’s strengthening alliances with Pakistani terror groups such as the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and several other groups have increased its access to experienced operatives as well as recruits, an official said. And the strong ties to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network ensure their survival unless these groups are denied terrain.
“Just the alliance with Lashkar-e-Taiba alone ensures al Qaeda has a vast pool of leadership cadre,” the official said.
As a capper, be sure to read Tom Maguire’s post about what Obama knew and when he knew it. The spin these days is that the White House simply didn’t realize the depth of corruption in the Karzai government when it ordered a counterinsurgency strategy in March, but that’s clearly nonsense given that the media was already reporting on it. Exit question via Maguire: Why doesn’t the modern Pericles put those golden pipes of his to use in rallying support for the mission he claims to care so much about? Exit answer, I guess: Didn’t he do that just a few weeks ago on behalf of ObamaCare? How’s that working out?