The apparent tussle between Obama and the Pentagon over a massive new troop build-up was never anything more than a game of political timing and numbers. It was simply bad politics to dump nearly 50,000 more troops in the country at a time when polls showed the American public has overwhelmingly soured on the war, and the majority of his base, liberal Democrats and progressives, scream for a withdrawal. With the GOP counterinsurgency gathering a head of steam Obama also cast a nervous eye on the recent off year elections. There was too much uncertainty about how Democrats would fare in state elections A double down on troops at a cost of billions more, and the almost certainty of bigger casualties demanded delay.
But there was no doubt that Obama would up the Afghan ante. This has as much to do with the Pentagon's relentless demand to escalate as with his unshakeable belief that the war can actually be won, no matter the cost.
Obama was willing to stake the credibility of his administration on that even before taking office. In his August 2009 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their convention, Obama sounded his it's the right time, right place and right war mantra line. "This is not a war of choice. "This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again."
There are of course better options to fight terrorism than a big, costly, and controversial Afghan occupation. Vice President Joe Biden for one urged a drastic scale back of the troop commitment in the country and to concentrate on targeted attacks against Al Qaeda wherever it was found. Biden's pitch for a less costly, more rationale approach to achieving Obama's aims was for the most part ignored.
Obama's buzz words are reforms, and anti-corruption measures, exit strategies, Afghan government, tight afghan security forces, and NATO partnerships. This is part fawn hope and part political script to sell the massive troop build-up to fight an unpopular war. The US hasn't come anywhere close to achieving any of these goals. Pouring 30 to 50,000 more troops in the country won't change that.