Obama Launches New Afghanistan Strategy
By Ben Pershing
For all the recent focus on the troop pullback in Iraq and post-election unrest in Iran, the fulcrum of the administration's foreign policy is Afghanistan, where "Obama's War" (think they like that label at the White House?) shifted into a new phase in the early hours of this morning.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes that U.S. Marines are today "mounting an operation that represents the first large-scale test of the U.S. military's new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan." The Wall Street Journal similarly calls the push "the first significant operation" since Obama switched commanders there, and cites unnamed American officers who have doubts about the effectiveness of the new strategy. But the Los Angeles Times says American commanders "believe a greater concentration of U.S. and Afghan troops ... is beginning to change the equation," particularly in the previously lawless region along the Pakistani border.
Will voters back home also have doubts? A New York Times poll taken in mid-June showed that 30 percent of respondents thought the war in Afghanistan was going well, while 55 percent thought it was going badly. Those numbers don't necessarily reflect poorly on Obama -- they were similar last summer, when it was still "Bush's War" -- but today's offensive will likely help cement in the public mind the idea that Obama is in charge of Afghanistan and making proactive decisions there, not just following or cleaning up after his predecessor's orders. He owns this conflict now, whether the headlines get better or -- as in the case of this morning's reported abduction of a U.S. soldier -- worse.
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