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Afghanistan Watch

By Dan Froomkin
1:17 PM ET, 01/26/2009

What to do in Afghanistan is shaping up as one of the most complicated issues facing Obama -- with the new president finding himself under increasing pressure to reassess his campaign promise to send in more troops.

Helene Cooper writes in the New York Times that "even as Mr. Obama's military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan 'surge,' there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether -- or how -- the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is. . . .

"Some foreign policy experts argue that Mr. Obama's decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan is simply an extension of Bush administration policy in the region, with the difference being that Mr. Obama could be putting more American lives at risk to pursue a failed policy. . . .

"'There's clearly a consensus that things are heading in the wrong direction,' [said Andrew Bacevich, an international relations professor at Boston University]. 'What's not clear to me is why sending 30,000 more troops is the essential step to changing that. My understanding of the larger objective of the allied enterprise in Afghanistan is to bring into existence something that looks like a modern cohesive Afghan state. Well, it could be that that's an unrealistic objective. It could be that sending 30,000 more troops is throwing money and lives down a rat hole.'"

And former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that Obama should give peace a chance: "As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. . . .

"I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East -- our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel -- that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. . . .

"So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?"

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