Obama's Afghanistan Strategy: Blogs From New York Review

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pakistani author and journalist Ahmed Rashid writes in the New York Review of Books about Obama's "missing strategy" in Afghanistan.

After all the talk about how many different audiences President Barack Obama had to satisfy when he finally outlined his strategy for Afghanistan on Tuesday night, he probably satisfied no more than one--the American audience who will support a continued US war effort only if there is a fixed deadline for starting to pull out US troops. Those who feel the war is futile were bound to be disappointed. But the reaction in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been equally skeptical.

Obama has given General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO commander in Kabul, more or less the numbers he wanted to beat back the Taliban from major population centers. However he has given the general only eighteen months to do the job. Although the president said "we will execute the transition responsibly, taking account of conditions on the ground," he announced that US forces will begin withdrawing in July of 2011, a Herculean if not impossible task in view of the gains the Taliban have made in the past few years and the feeble state of the Afghan government and army.

US hopes rest on the Afghan National Army (ANA), which today numbers some 90,000 soldiers. Yet after eight years of US intervention in Afghanistan, not a single brigade is self sufficient or combat-ready. The only area the Afghan army has under its control is Kabul city, where thousands of Western troops are available for backup. Unlike in Iraq, where a literate, professional standing army existed under Saddam Hussein, in Afghanistan what remained of the military had largely disbanded or deserted by the time of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Since then there has only been warlordism. Read More

Also in NYR, Garry Wills explains the deep betrayal he feels over Obama's decision to escalate the war.

I did not think he would lose me so soon--sooner than Bill Clinton did. Like many people, I was deeply invested in the success of our first African-American president. I had written op-ed pieces and articles to support him in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. My wife and I had maxed out in donations for him. Our children had been ardent for his cause.

Others I respect have given up on him before now. I can see why. His backtracking on the treatment of torture (and photographs of torture), his hesitations to give up on rendition, on detentions, on military commissions, and on signing statements, are disheartening continuations of George W. Bush's heritage. But I kept hoping that he was using these concessions to buy leeway for his most important position, for the ground on which his presidential bid was predicated.

There was only one thing that brought him to the attention of the nation as a future president. It was opposition to the Iraq war. None of his serious rivals for the Democratic nomination had that credential--not Hillary Clinton, not Joseph Biden, not John Edwards. It set him apart. He put in clarion terms the truth about that war--that it was a dumb war, that it went after an enemy where he was not hiding, that it had no indigenous base of support, that it had no sensible goal and no foreseeable cutoff point. Read More

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