The clock is ticking, Mr. President

Obama’s deliberative pace is either heartening or maddening, depending on your perspective. Personally, I think he’s wise to take his time on an issue in which it’s so hard to know the right answer. But I worry that the White House approach will soften the edges so much that the policy itself will be fuzzy and doomed to failure…

Obama’s challenge on Afghanistan is to identify a mission there that is achievable, and then to provide the necessary resources. He has ruled out simply walking away from the Afghanistan war — which he rightly sees as a reckless course at a time when neighboring Pakistan is facing its own brutal onslaught from the Taliban.

But what is an achievable goal for U.S. forces? Stabilizing the whole country is Mission Impossible, I’m afraid. McChrystal thinks that with some additional troops, the United States could provide security for major population centers in the south and east. This would buy some time to train the Afghan army and encourage President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to reach a political reconciliation with the Taliban. Is this strategy really doable, and if so, at what cost? I’m still looking for answers to those questions and so, evidently, is Obama.

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