Saturday, October 3, was a tough day for President Obama and U.S. Troops serving in the war against Terrorism in Afghanistan. Bad for the President because it was he who declared vehemently during the 2008 Campaign that "Afghanistan is a war of necessity" and warned that losing it would put at risk the safety of people around the world.
It was a bad day for the Troops because they lost eight of their comrades in arms to a fierce battle on the Pakistan border. According to news reports Taliban militiamen attacked American and Afghan military outposts in a daylong siege on Saturday that killed eight U.S. soldiers and two Afghan security forces in one of the deadliest battles in months, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. The fighting began early that Saturday morning and raged throughout the day in a remote region of eastern Afghanistan in Nuristan province, which borders Pakistan.
Since that time, things appear to have worsened with more troop losses and injuries. All of this comes at a time when General Stanley McChrystal has made clear (and publicly so) that we need another 45,000 troops or more on the ground to have a chance at winning the war. President Obama and McChrystal met for the first time last week aboard Air Force One and I think we can safely assume that they discussed the feasibility of sending such a large number of U.S. troops to the region when we are still fighting a protracted war in Iraq.
But here is the thing folks, the President has no real choice but to accede to McChrystal's request and soon; because if he does not the Taliban and Al Qaeda have proven that they are willing to out maneuver, outlast, and outfight our troops on the ground and do so by engaging in bloody battles that leave our soldiers either dead or wounded.
How much tolerance can this new President, who is embattled on so many fronts (the economy, health care, energy, national security) have for American soldiers coming home in body bags because he refused to give the commanding General on the ground what he requested?
More disturbing is the lack of support that NSA Advisor General Jones appears to be giving to General McChrystal: "It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of other elements of the strategy," General Jones said on Face the Nation last week. He also offered little support of a recommendation by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, to add more troops on top of the 68,000 Americans already deployed there.
Stunningly General Jones characterized Gen. McChrystal's request for another 40,000 troops as "his opinion" of "what he thinks his role within that strategy is." WOW!
It is almost unheard of for a General who is boots on the ground to be undermined by a fellow General back at home in Washington, D.C. I think that we would all do well to remember that Al-Qaida watches CNN too and they listen carefully to news reports about our Military strategy as well as our political battle lines here at home. The President must be careful not to be seen as weak and indecisive (I argued this point on my op-ed last week on Iran). He is young, he is in his first year of office and he is being tested by the old warrior states like North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and others. How he responds to the morass in Afghanistan and the brewing nuclear threat in Iran will determine how much U.S. Super Power currency we will have around the world for many years to come; long after President Obama is gone from office.
So what is the bottom line? The bottom line is that The President of the United States made painstakingly clear during the 2008 Campaign and subsequently that the real war on Terror needed to be waged in Afghanistan.
Well, here is his chance to wage it; what is he waiting for?