Where Will Obama Take Us in Afghanistan?

Although he has focused most closely so far on a stimulus package likely to stimulate government spending more than the U.S. economy in general, President Barack Obama still seems committed to escalating the war in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates purposely tried in recent testimony to tamp down expectations and delineate more modest objectives, noting that it was likely only 10,000 to 12,000 additional U.S. troops (on top of 36,000 already there) could be in Afghanistan by midsummer. But he stressed that the commitment still stands to bring in 30,000 additional troops as soon as feasible.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gates said the U.S. military would be used mainly for direct fighting, expanding the scope of U.S. anti-Taliban military activity, while European troops from NATO countries should focus on "nation-building" activities like training the Afghan military and police forces and engaging in reconstruction activity.

That’s about as wrong-headed an approach as can be imagined. Let’s hope the Obama administration rethinks the strategy drastically.

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February 20, 2009

Alan Bock [send him mail] is Senior Essayist at the Orange County Register. He is the author of Ambush at Ruby Ridge and Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana.