Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 30, 2009

Afghan Policy – Making a Presidency

Filed under: International HLS,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on November 30, 2009

Tomorrow at 8pm, President Obama will be giving one of the most important speeches to date of his presidency at West Point.  In it, as has been widely reported today, he will be laying out his Administration’s strategy for dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan. He met yesterday with his top advisers, including  Vice President Joe Biden, Admiral Mike Mullen, General James Cartwright and David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  He also spoke to General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, about his decision.

He was scheduled to spend most of today calling world leaders telling them about his strategy and asking for continued and renewed support Afghanistan.  He already secured a commitment from Britain, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown announcing today to Parliament that the country would send 500 new troops to Afghanistan next month, bringing the United Kingdom’s totals to 10,000 (9,500 troops plus 500 special forces).  France has commitment to maintain its presence, though has not indicated whether it will increase its numbers.

Here is what to expect of President Obama tomorrow:

  • A 40 minute speech outlining the strategy
  • The deployment of an additional 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops, bringing the U.S. totals in the country to 100,000
  • Increasing the number in the Afghan army to 240,000 and the Afghan police to 160,000 by October 2013
  • An announcement that the U.S. will ask its NATO partners for 7,000 to 10,000 more troops (currently U.S. allies have 36,230 troops in country)
  • An acknowledgement of the “limits” on U.S. resources -both in manpower and funding – for the war
  • Some details of an exit strategy

It is not expected that the President will go into great details about the cost of the escalation or that he will touch upon the proposals by some in the Democratic party, led by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, for a “war tax.”

Chairman Obey conveyed to CNN recently that he has to “to look at the entire federal budget, as chairman of the committee, for instance. I have to see what $400 billion or $500 billion, $600 billion, $700 billion, over a decade, for this effort, will cost us on education, on our efforts to build the entire economy.”

Chairman Obey’s words sum up perfectly why tomorrow’s speech is perhaps one of the most important speeches of this young Presidency.  With an ambitious domestic agenda, President Obama must convince the left tomorrow that spending on Afghanistan is the right thing to do and that his domestic priorities will not suffer.  At the same time, he has to convince the right (and most of the moderate middle) that he is tough enough on terrorism and that spending on both domestic and international priorities can be done simultaneously.  What the President says and how convincing he is tomorrow will set the tone for politics in D.C. for 2010.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

November 30, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

Certainly agree with the last sentence! Specifically:”What the President says and how convincing he is tomorrow will set the tone for politics in D.C. for 2010.”

For a number of years I have argued with many and posted comments on several blogs the premise that OBAMA was the last US President who will be allowed to be totally ignorant of International Relations, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs? Certainly not hard to document that except for President George H.W. Bush we certainly proved that expertise in foreign affairs was sorely lacking in all the Presidents who followed Nixon. For Nixon, foreign policy and foreign affairs was his lifeblood, hobby and complete reality. Managing domestic affairs only important to achieve his foreign policy goals. WELL, the economic situation masks the fact that the US no longer even controls its own economic situation or fate. Without that the WAR issue would have total precedence with the American public even though filtered by NO DRAFT! Now just an economic draft, with food stamp usage at an all time high. And remember food stamps was a WWII program to deal with the fact that over 1.3 of all drafted men were rejected in their induction physical for malnutrition. Personal footnote! When going through my first active duty physical and dental exam I was behind 10 men each of whom had NEVER seen a dentist in their life. That was September 1967. The Army Dentists, most drafted to deal with wisdom teeth issue in the drafted population were postively thrilled and relieved when I showed up with evidence of superb dental care. A recent report indicates one (1) out of ten (10) adults now on food stamps and one (1) out of four (4) children. So let’s not pretend. The President is choosing to give priority to the wishes of the military/industrial/academic complex to continue to expand, hold, and maintain American protectorates in both AF/PAK and Iraq. Notice the preponderance of military advisors in the final briefs. Even his Chief of Staff has military background int eh IDF (Israeli Defense Force) and still wondering if he has dual nationality? The real importance of the speech is not what impact the President thinks his decision will have on the AF-PAK theatre, whatever his hopes and rationale! The real import of the speech will be his explanation as to why domestic sacrifice must continue to be made by the hungry, powerless, poor, and under-educated to support the militarism of the US and its almost total dependence on a military approach to foreign affairs and foreign policy. We paid a high price for the imbedded fascination and reluctance to confront the national security state by President’s Bush and Clinton and now the time has come to see whether that price will just increase more under Obama. A Presidency is not just about decisions but about the priorities they represent. Tomorrow we will find out truly for the very first time what are the President’s priorities. The take on the speech in my opinion by the foreign press will be much more significant that the US MSM take on the speech. But as always could be wrong, even very wrong.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 30, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

I should also like to state that using the Service Academy at West Point is a forum is to me misusing the patriotism and innocence of those cadets. Wrong speech for that forum.

Hey we all know that many in the audience are hoping for flag rank. How many will have a background and language skills to titrate their
Can Do” attitudes with the judgement needed by military officers in our democracy (republic)! I believe six generals have made it to the Presidency. No Admirals. Is that too many or two few? Elective office and appointed office are very different creatures and their products even more so.

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