Afghanistan Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:37 PM ET, 02/19/2009

I wrote at length yesterday about Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. If you missed it, read it now: Putting Out Fire -- With Gasoline?

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, said Wednesday that the heightened troop levels that President Obama ordered for Afghanistan could remain in place for as long as five years.

"General McKiernan, who spoke at a news conference at the Pentagon a day after Mr. Obama ordered 17,000 additional troops to the country, said that the buildup 'is not a temporary force uplift' and that it was essential to break what he called a stalemate in southern Afghanistan, the epicenter of the Taliban-led insurgency."

Ellen Barry writes in the New York Times: "The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan voted on Thursday to terminate the American military’s eight-year lease on an air base outside the capital, Bishkek, complicating President Obama’s plans to deploy as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next two years."

Fred Kaplan writes for Slate that "whatever Obama eventually does about this war, he pretty much had to send those two brigades now—a move recommended by all his civilian and military advisers—unless, of course, he'd decided just to get out of Afghanistan altogether. But he wasn't going to do that. He has said many times, during the election campaign and since, that as U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, he would send at least some of them to Afghanistan. And the two brigades that he's sending there now—one Army, one Marine—were originally scheduled to rotate back into Iraq."

And, he concludes: "Whatever President Obama decides to do in Afghanistan, the real danger lies in Pakistan, and its problems lie beyond the powers and jurisdiction of the U.S. military or NATO."

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