Monday, October 19, 2009

Dithering Is Dithering

New York Times -- Decision on Afghan Troops May Wait

Americans understand that losses are part of achieving the aims of a war. But seeing troops die in service of an unclear objective or because of political hand wringing is another matter.Sixty nine troops have died in Afghanistan since President Obama started his lengthy reconsideration of the war there, starting with his review of the McChrystal report on deteriorating security conditions.

Obama is starting to pay a heavy political price for suspending his strategy, announced in March and vigorously defended in August, with troops still in harms way.

Writers Peter Baker and Sabrina Tavernise pass along the message from the administration: we’ll tell you our new strategy after the Afghan government gets itself sorted out.

What the White House seems to want is a coalition government between President Karzai and his top opponent following a runoff election. The election is still weeks away and would likely be another violent affair with more American casualties.

And while making American involvement conditional on the political machinations of the second-worst country in the world (but closing on Somalia) may seem like a nifty political trick, Americans have little patience for casualties in service of an unclear mission.

“The delay, though, reflects deep uncertainty inside the White House about the prospects of waging a successful war without a partner in Kabul with widespread legitimacy among the Afghan people. A delay could also provide some political space at home for Mr. Obama, whose efforts to pass health care legislation are reaching a climactic moment in Congress, although the White House has denied any relationship between the two issues.

The election in Afghanistan was so badly marred by allegations of fraud that they helped prompt Mr. Obama to rethink the strategy he unveiled just in March, officials have said. Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr, among others at the White House, had already soured on Mr. Karzai, whose government and family are accused of corruption and ties to drug dealing. The election reinforced those doubts, officials said.”

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