I won't claim special sourcing or knowledge about the president's deliberations on Afghanistan. But I do have a hunch that the leak today that our ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, a retired Lt. General and commander in Afghanistan, is wary in the extreme of a big buildup there wasn't an accident. You could see it a few ways. One is that opponents of a buildup, fearing that Obama is leaning toward a bigger influx of troops per the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, leaked this as an effort to strengthen their hands. My Washington-trained gut says it's the opposite, a trial balloon because Obama will go with a smaller buildup, and putting Eikenberry's concerns out there serves as a counterweight to McChrystal. It, in effect say, "Look I have smart generals who don't want a buildup."
Either way, the whole process is kind of amazing. Whether you think Obama is dithering, as Dick Cheney charged, or proceeding with appropriate caution--I tend to think the latter more than the former--it's kind of wild to have this play out over such an extended period. Cheney, who created more disasters than one can count, can't lecture anyone, but it's also hard to see what new information is coming in over the transom to make this decision take so long. In any event, we'll know soon enough, but I'm thinking the president goes with a lesser footprint now and holds out the possibility of more later if need be.
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