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How long does winning take?

November 30, 2009

President Obama has responded to the request that General Stanley McChrystal submitted on August 30.  This Sunday, Nov. 29, Obama signed off on an order to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. Not quite to the 40,000 that his chosen General requested, but troops from other nations should make up the difference. It took 3 months for Obama to decide on this. McChrystal had said that the next 12 months in Afghanistan will be decisive. That leaves us with 9 months. Hopefully that will be long enough.

Part of Obama’s plan for Afghanistan, a key part of his speech coming up on Tuesday, is a definite timetable for ending hostilities. Which begs the question.  What happens if we haven’t won by then? Here’s what Gibbs had to say:

“The president will talk about, ‘This is not an open ended commitment,’ that the goal and the purpose of the strategy is to train Afghan national security force, comprised of an Afghan national army and a police, that can fight an unpopular insurgency in Afghanistan so that we can then transfer that security responsibility appropriately back to the Afghans,” Gibbs said.

So, the goal of our involvement in Afghanistan is to train Afghan soldiers? What happened to the goal of destroying Al Qaeda, killing bin Laden, and ending the threat of Islamic Extremism? Are those no longer on the radar?

What happens if Afghanistan’s troops aren’t ready to provide security? If Afghanistan doesn’t meet Obama’s “very strict benchmarks” will we just go ahead and leave? If that’s the case, then our commitment doesn’t seem very sincere. How do our allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan read this? They’ll likely assume that they need to hedge their bets, because America isn’t planning on sticking around. How will the Taliban react? They’ll hunker down and wait us out, or maybe even conduct a few major attacks in an effort to speed up our timetable.

It’s clear that Obama’s main concern isn’t winning. It’s leaving with some shred of dignity. He likely believes that it’s impossible to beat the Taliban. But winning wars is a matter of strength and will. America undoubtedly has the strength to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But right now, we do not have the will. Bush warned us that we were locked in a long struggle with fanatical Islam. Have we already forgotten that warning?

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