Monday and Tuesday's front page stories for the Washington Post further detail the frustrated decision making process that went into last December's order by President Obama to increase US forces in Afghanistan by an additional 30,000 (on top of the 21,000 additional troops sent by the President to Afghanistan in the spring of 2009, which itself was a successor to a 2.5 fold increase in US and NATO troops from 2005-8). Most importantly, we learn from excerpts of Bob Woodward's recently released book, Obama's Wars, that, despite his direction and guidance to his staff, the President was provided with only one fully prepared option by his military advisors and, in frustration, ultimately decided upon his own course of action for troop increases and a timeline in Afghanistan.
This revelation, that the President was not offered a thorough and complete accounting of available options and courses of action for Afghanistan, comes barely a week after both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal published indications from the Obama Administration that the review of the war by General David Petreaus, scheduled for this December, would not offer substantial debate or prompt effective change in the US' current Afghan strategy.
The need for debate and change is clear. As US and NATO troop presence has increased five fold since 2005 in support of the counter-insurgency campaign; whose failings and counterproductive nature the President himself is shown to grasp as summarized by Woodward and highlighted in Tuesday's Washington Post:
What about the 25,000 U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan? the president asked. They had been there for years. Where are they on the clear, hold, build and transfer model?
They are still holding, sir.
Any of them close to transferring?
Not a single one, sir.
The model had become: clear, hold, hold, hold, hold and hold.;
The conflict in Afghanistan has only worsened, with each year casualties rising, the size of the Taliban growing and support for the Karzai government diminishing. With the cost of the war for American taxpayers expected to reach $119 billion in 2011 and the strategy's dubious and suspect effects on al-Qaeda's worldwide operations and potentially destabilizing influence on Pakistan's nuclear armed government, the Afghanistan Study Group firmly believes it is in the best interests of the United States to have an open and public debate on the United States' role and operations in Afghanistan and for our Commander in Chief to be provided with the full range of options and courses of action available to the United States in Afghanistan and the region.
If this December's review is nothing more than a repeat of last year's incomplete decision making process, amounting to nothing more than rubber stamping the current strategy, while stubbornly resisting the existence of other options, then the United States and her interests, in particular our service members fighting and dying everyday in Afghanistan, will be done a great and harmful disservice by our nation's leaders, both uniformed and civilian.