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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/22/09

Pressure to Escalate Afghan Occupation May Result in Obama Re-Focus Away from Nation-Building

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WITH the recent flurry of reports of requests by 'commanders in the
field' for the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan - and the
hesitation by the White House to offer any echo of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen's
apparent desire to further escalate the occupation - there's a question
as to where the notion actually originated. The lack of any clear sign
that the recent escalation of force has gotten us any closer to either
reconciliation or victory over our nation's opponents in Afghanistan
may be what has caused President Obama to shy away from outright
agreeing with the general, but he's going to be pressed, anyway, in the
coming weeks, to (re)define the future of his mission there (in light
of the consequences of the Afghan's disputed and widely discredited
elections) in ways which will convince Americans that both his
commitment and his approach are reasonable and doable. There are signs
that instead of tripling the military commitment in Afghanistan, the
president is considering focusing most of the military effort in the
near future on 'defeating' al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The president
has made clear with his declaration of U.S. military goals in
Afghanistan that he has increased the commitment of forces there in the
belief that al-Qaeda and their Taliban supporters in the region can
ultimately be "eliminated or "defeated". However, assessments in
McChrystal's leaked memo and by others show the insurgency growing and
gaining influence in Afghanistan, despite the increased U.S.-led
military offensive and the completion of the elections there which were
supposed to produce the political stability the administration has
argued is essential to any successes assumed to be achieved by the
escalated raids and assaults against the resistance forces.

televised remarks Sunday on 'Meet the Press', Mr. Obama said the
question he's asking those who are advocating increased military
presence and action in Afghanistan is: "How does it make sure that
al-Qaida and its extremist allies cannot attack the US homeland, our
allies, our troops who are based in Europe?"

"If supporting the
Afghan national government and building capacity for their army and
securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move
forward," the president said. "But if it doesn't, then I'm not
interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in
Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message
that America is here for the duration."

That's as clear a
statement of reservations from the president about military involvement
in Afghanistan as he's offered, so far, as president. Most of his
comments about Afghanistan (before the recent elections there) have
appeared to be directed toward those who were looking to find some
resolve from the new administration to continue the military campaign
that candidate Obama had complained was inadequate to the task of
confronting and eliminating any threat to U.S. from fugitive al-Qaeda
and their allies in the region.

Indeed, even as the White
House attempted to put the lid on escalation reports, the republican
opposition in Congress looked to pressure the president into following
through on his stated commitments to military action and to support the
leaked calls for more troops. A "deeply troubled" House Minority Leader
John A. Boehner said in a statement that, "It's time for the President
to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated," Boehner
said, "because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk."

his reticence though, to dig our troops in any further into the Afghan
soil, it doesn't look at all like the president is ready to completely
abandon his ambitious military campaign to "defeat" al-Qaeda. AP
reported yesterday that one alternative to increasing the size of the
U.S. military contingent in Afghanistan may be to step up the number of
drone (unmanned) aerial attacks on targets in Pakistan. That strategy,
however, has been hailed as a success by the military, but panned by
the Pakistanis caught in the way of the seemingly arbitrary and
tragically collateral U.S. air attacks across their sovereign borders
from Afghanistan.

All of the speculation about troop increases
stems from a report prepared for Gen. McChrystal from which he's
expected to make recommendations for the way forward for the U.S.
military in Afghanistan. What may be lost in all of the punditry is
that U.S. policy regarding Afghanistan and the region in conflict will
ultimately be directed from the White House, not the Pentagon. The
president is looking at a number of options which may not necessarily
center on the role of just the combat forces which have been deployed
to facilitate the elections just held.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yesterday,
answered those anxious to promote the yet-to-be-announced requests for
more troops, asserting that, "We have a process going on with respect
to our strategy in Afghanistan. As the president has said, it's
strategy before resources."

"We're soliciting and receiving advice and assessments from a broad range of those who are directly involved ,
and of course we welcome General McChrystal's thoughts. But that's a
classified pre-decisional memo, and we are looking to integrate
everything that we're doing, and then of course the president will make
his decisions," she said.

Some of the individuals who are
attempting to influence the president's Afghanistan policy are
apparently having some success in acting outside of the administration.
Spencer Ackerman at the 'Washington Independent'
reports that neoconservative vigilantes, Fred and Kim Kagan contributed
to the Pentagon review which reportedly calls for up to an additional
40,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan, and are now issuing their own call
for a 40,000 to 45,000 increase in an article Monday hawking their
insider's view of the recommendations in McChrystal's leaked 66-page memo.

troops to Afghanistan may well be inevitable. Even critics in Congress
who have expressed reservations about sending additional troops to
Afghanistan (like Democratic Sen. Carl Levin) have spoken about their
desire to, nonetheless, provide more U.S. 'training' forces to speed
the development of the Afghan military so they, in turn, can provide
the future security for their government and their citizens.

the generals ultimately present to the president as a way forward for
the military in Afghanistan, there will need to be an increased
acknowledgment of the limits of military power in achieving even the
modest political goals set out by the administration. The mixed results
of the Afghan elections and the almost negligible effect on the balance
of power outside of Kabul (a majority adhering to the tribal leadership
of the Taliban and others over the influence and control of
Afghanistan's central government) expose the administration's
nation-building behind the force of our military as the crap-shoot
almost everyone expected it to be.

Faced with limited resources
(both money and manpower) available to fulfill all of the desires to
escalate the occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama is now
challenged (either by process or deliberate manipulation of the leaked
review) to be more specific about what our future military role is in
Afghanistan. It looks, more and more, that our new president is going to be reluctant to invest more of his political capital in defending a
unpopular military campaign in Afghanistan at the expense of a focus on
his domestic priorities and ambitions. His statement that, he's "not
interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in
Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message
that America is here for the duration," is encouraging. We'll see . . .


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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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