Three months ago, I joined a number of Americans in urging President Obama to provide the resources necessary to achieve our goals in Afghanistan. Tonight, I am glad he mostly heeded that advice.
At long last, President Obama decided to give his military commanders much of what they need to accomplish their mission in Afghanistan. In the end, he decided to endorse a “surge” for Afghanistan, applying the counterinsurgency principles of “clear, hold and build” that worked so well in Iraq. Given that he opposed the surge in Iraq, it is even more welcome that he now supports a surge in Afghanistan.
This approach means, as Senator John McCain has noted, that “We now have an opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus in support of a vital national security priority: defeating Al-Qaeda and its violent extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and ensuring that these countries never again serve as bases for terrorist attacks against America and our allies.”
We should be clear, however, that fewer troops mean assuming more risk. Talk of an exit date also risks sending the wrong message. We should be in Afghanistan to win, not to set a timetable for withdrawal that signals a lack of resolve to our friends, and lets our enemies believe they can wait us out. As long as we’re in to win, and as long as troop level decisions are based on conditions on the ground and the advice of our military commanders, I support President Obama’s decision.