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What I want to hear from President Obama about Afghanistan

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Steven Leser     Permalink
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Freepers and, by extension, since I use them as a baseline for the rightmost half of the Republican Party, Republicans don't seem to have a strategy at all for what to do with Afghanistan. Republican grass roots discussions on Afghanistan seem geared towards whether Obama will "surrender", whether Democrats were being honest when they said Iraq was the false war and Afghanistan is the real one, and other similar talk (when they weren't issuing odd, veiled threats against the President). I couldn't find many posts on Free Republic where a Freeper laid out a suggested course of action regarding Afghanistan. Admittedly, I didn't spend a ton of time researching, but this is very strange from a group that usually has a lot of detailed (and generally gung ho) suggestions about war. Regarding past conflicts like Iraq, it wasn't hard to find suggestions from Freepers about how the war should be waged. It is curious to me that it is hard now.

What this all tells me is that we all need to hear from the President exactly what the current situation is in Afghanistan and wherever else elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban may be hiding in the region (i.e. Pakistan). How well or how badly is the war going and which regions are doing well and which ones are doing badly? I want to know WHY are things going well or badly overall and regionally. I want to know what things are lacking that are causing any issues for US forces.

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Have we conducted ourselves in a way that has caused ourselves problems with the Afghan people? If so, what did we do that was wrong? Have we lost the support of a majority of the people in Afghanistan? If so, is there a reasonable chance we can win that support back? If they don't support us, are they willing to help us at least in terms of building infrastructure and a central government? If, as many people say, Afghanistan is so "tribalized" (yes, I know that is not a real word) that a central government will not be supported in general, is there appropriate strategy that takes that into account? The President needs to explain all of this so that we can use our own judgment to determine whether we support his actions.

What is the desired end state for the US?

I need to hear this not only from Obama, but anyone who proposes an alternate plan. If someone proposes we pull out, what is the end state that they believe this will achieve? What are each of the groups involved, i.e., the US, the Northern Alliance, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, doing in that end state. How do they feel about the United States? What is different in any end state from the situation as it existed on September 10, 2001?

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I need to hear from President Obama what the consequences are of not achieving our desired end state and on a related issue, what he believes our adversaries are trying to achieve.

A secondary issue with regard to the desired end state is one of the treatment of women in a post US involvement Afghanistan. Many of my progressive friends challenge me with the question, "Why is it our responsibility or right to make Afghanistan what we want it to be in terms of rights for women, etc." My simple response is that we broke it, so now we've bought it, to borrow a phrase from Colin Powell. Once you take over a country, you are responsible for it. It may be that the most responsible thing we can do is to pull out, I grant that possibility. But, if we remain, or if we are going to escalate or take any action, we ought to try to do what we can for women's rights in that country.

Is the desired end state achievable? If not, is there a fallback plan of objectives and strategy to get there or to a plan B end state?

One of the main issues I see that is problematic for any escalation is a lack of public support. Democrats in general do not seem to be willing to support an escalation for very long, if at all, and Republicans don't support President Obama no matter what he does. You could ask a majority of Freepers what they would do right now as President and if Obama did exactly those things, they still wouldn't support him. Where does that leave him if he needs support for his actions? Assuming he goes ahead with an escalation, he has perhaps 3-9 months for that escalation to work before it becomes politically untenable.

An interesting role reversal is coming up regarding the additional troops that may be sent to Afghanistan. Will Republicans cheer for the success of those troops and the mission? If not, can we Democrats who support the effort accuse them of not supporting the troops?

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Can we afford to continue this war? The answer to that in my opinion is definitely not. But sometimes you have to do things you technically cannot afford if the need to do them is great enough. Is the need great enough here? President Obama needs to address all of these questions.

If we are going to escalate, and it seems from all accounts that the President has made that decision, why only 30,000 troops? If the President believes there is an objective we can achieve and is necessary for us to achieve, and I hope he is right, then he needs to throw overwhelming force at it. Why not send at a minimum 60,000 or 100,000 additional troops? If you have to go to war, I don't believe you send barely enough troops to achieve victory. That makes things worse for all involved, including the enemy and innocent civilians. My fellow anti-war friends are not going to be happy with how I say this, but if you have to go to war, go with overwhelming force, hit the enemy with everything you have and finish it quickly. A war where one side is barely stronger than the other causes prolonged wars of attrition where the suffering is magnified exponentially. So, I suppose my final request and words of advice to the President are, if you have made the decision to escalate and you are sure that decision is the correct one, please, don't do it half-heartedly. Allocate enough troops to make sure that we can take care of business quickly. This is particularly important if there is a short window of support for an escalation. Err on the side of sending MORE troops, more quickly. Leave no possibility that afterwards, you and your advisers will be sitting around a table lamenting that more troops weren't sent.

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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)

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