Obama has made his decision about Afghanistan-
Behind door number 1: Send no troops and begin withdrawing. This would put a smile on the faces of every anti-war protester, everyone who wanted to go with a short-term aid package in the first place, and everyone who is fully for peace and not war.
Behind door number 2: Send no more troops but roll a full strategy out that focuses on going into the hills and working more aggressively with the troops that are already there. This would put a smile on nobody’s face.
Behind door number 3: Send somewhere in the neighborhood of the recommended 40,000 troops in order to ramp up the aggressive assault on al Quaeda. This would put a big smile on the faces of the generals and all those who feel we are not doing everything we can to make the mission in Afghanistan actually happen.
After much deliberation, listening to voices from all sides and considering carefully the ramifications of his actions, Obama has decided to go with something akin to door number three.
He will announce on December 1 that he will be sending around 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The number will add to the 68,000 troops currently there. The goal is to defeat the Taliban and create conditions for the U.S. to exit the war.
There are a lot of factors that will determine whether this is the correct and most effective decision. It does fit with his campaign pledge to put more of a focus on Afghanistan, so he has retained some consistency there. It will be tested around the widening questioning of Afghan president Karzai and whether he and his government are corrupt or if they are a true ally of democracy. Are they using the U.S. to gain power and oust the Taliban, or are they truly creating a democratic state? Is Karzai stealing elections and only in it for the power? These kinds of questions will come into play down the road after the military and social effects of sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan play out.
In an interesting twist, Obama will also venture across the Atlantic to receive his Nobel Peace Prize not 2 weeks after announcing a major troop increase. It will be interesting to see what his reception there will be.
Reuters writes that Obama will stress that the U.S. does not have an “open-ended commitment” to Afghanistan and wants to turn over both power and military responsibility as quickly as possible. In addition, Obama will be asking for more aid from Pakistan and Pakistani forces to battle those who have crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Then there is the question of how to pay for this war. Obama is proposing something that could cost up to $40 billion- while this sounds small compared to the projected costs of his healthcare plan, it is a major chunk of change that is not in his current budget.
In general, this new strategy will focus on securing population centers and training forces in Afghanistan to take over for the U.S. troops. It's a mixed bag- more troops, lots of them, but with a strategy of turning over responsibility. We'll see
how that works out.