Iran, Afghanistan Crises Test Obama
By Ben Pershing
Thorny problems in Iran and Afghanistan are testing President Obama's ability to navigate international crises, as his administration presents a resolutely united front on the former country but remains divided on the latter.
Much of the recent coverage of the Afghanistan issue has focused on divides within the Obama administration on the question of whether to send more troops. The New York Times laid out the opposing sides over the weekend, with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and James Jones all skeptical of a troop buildup, and Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke joining Stanley McChrystal on the more hawkish side. But Robert Gates' position has been described as unclear, at least until the Defense secretary made it a bit clearer on Sunday.
Speaking on CNN, Gates said, "The notion of timelines and exit strategies and so on, frankly, I think would all be a strategic mistake. The reality is, failure in Afghanistan would be a huge setback for the United States." (Gates also took an interesting shot at his last employer, the Bush administration, saying: "I think that the strategy that the president put forward in late March is the first real strategy we have had for Afghanistan since the early 1980s.") On ABC, Gates said the decision on whether to send more troops would be made in "a matter of a few weeks." But Jones told Bob Woodward that Obama had not set a deadline for the decision. As for Hamid Karzai, The Washington Post reports that the U.S. and its allies have told the Afghan president "that they expect him to remain in office for another five-year term and will work with him on an expanded campaign to turn insurgent fighters against the Taliban and other militant groups."
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