Tuesday, December 1, 2009

President Obama's Afghan Strategy; Worth The Risk, or Worth The Risk?

"We must deny al-Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum. ... And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government."- President Barack Obama.

And thus President Obama committed an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan at an approximate cost of $30 billion for the next year alone. They will be joining the 71,000 already on the ground in that war torn country, where the United States has been involved in a ground war since October, 2001. The new first troops will arrive in Afghanistan by earlier 2010.

In his speech to the nation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, (NY) the President did give a timetable for the deployment of troops- Mr. Obama said the troops will start coming home in the summer of 2011. In the interim US forces will attempt to get Afghan forces to take control of their own security.

The President told viewers and his audience that he would get together with Congress to find a way to fund the additional expense, but offered no specific way to do so. So far, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States a trillion dollars, with 4,284 killed in action and 30,182 wounded in Iraq as of December 1st, and 849 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring Uzbekistan, according to the Pentagon.

My reaction to the President's speech was mixed. I want Osama bin Laden punished for his murder of 3,000 people on our own soil, and want to see al-Qaida, if not destroyed, at least put in check permanently. The incompetence of the Bush-Cheney administration allowed the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to escape by getting America involved in an unnecessary war in in Iraq. Bin Laden was there for the taking in 2001, and the Bush administration decided to start preparing for a war in Iraq as early as November, 2001 (according to retired Col Lawrence Wilkerson, an aide to the Bush White House).

But tonight Barack Obama took ownership of the war and the escalation of its prosecution. He was left holding the bag left to him by the previous administration. Its all his now, to win or lose.

I think he realizes the American people are weary of war and shaken by the fragile state of the American economy- and that they will not stand for an open ended strategy, thus the time table. But how can any war be fought with a "game clock", as CBS's Bob Schieffer put it? Or how can we keep asking are troops to do more and keep sending them back into combat for two or three, or even more tours of duty? How can this war be paid for without adding on to the ballooning national deficit? If bin Laden is in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan, how does this help to bring him to justice? Why should America continue to support the weak and corrupt regime of President Karzai, who's brother is one of the largest traffickers of drugs in the Middle East? And the Afghan people are showing signs of wanting foreigners- meaning Americans and our allies- out of their country.

These questions will only multiply in the coming months regarding this escalation. Maybe in trying to find a solution to the conflict President Obama had cut off the head of the Hydra, only to see two heads grow back in its place.

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