The Campaign Spot

Obama: Commanders tell me, ‘I’d rather, instead of having another platoon, I’d like to have a couple of agricultural specialists.’

Remember when Obama slipped up, and found himself arguing that we didn’t have enough agricultural specialists in Afghanistan because they were in Iraq? (They aren’t.)
Obama’s talking about “agricultural specialists” again, and I think Obama has undermined his “we’re losing Afghanistan because all of our troops are in Iraq” argument:

“If you talk to, if you talk to, commanders on the ground there, they’ll tell you, ‘I’d rather, instead of having another platoon, I’d like to have a couple of agricultural specialists.’ We need more troops on the ground in Afghanistan, but we also need to teach them to grow things other than poppy. Right? And that’s something that we simply have not focused on. So that’s an excellent question, and it’s going to be one of the central challenges of my administration.”

I’m very curious about when, exactly, Obama had this conversation with these unnamed commanders on the ground. He has not visited Afghanistan and has missed several hearings (understandable with the campaign schedule).
By the way, there is information on the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA here. The number of agricultural advisors in Afghanistan has increased from three in 2003 to 13 this year; the deployments have lengthened from six months to 13 months. In addition, USDA has sent technical advisors.
Could the U.S. send more personnel? I suppose, but I note a couple challenges. First, are there a lot of experts with the appropriate knowledge sitting around waiting to be sent there? Or are the thirteen currently out there the best folks to send? Second, most government agencies aren’t like the military; can the President tell some soil or irrigation expert in Washington with a family, etc., that they’re going to Afghanistan for a year?

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