Quiet Support-Troop Surge Unsettles Left

President Obama has sent 13,000 support troops--more than half the size of the Iraq surge--to Afghanistan

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Obama has quietly sent 13,000 support troops to Afghanistan, a major addition to the 21,000 sent in March. Is this an Afghanistan surge? The Iraq War surge of 2007 saw an increase of 20,000 troops, as well as extensions of the tours of 4,000 others. These 13,000 are doctors and engineers rather than combat troops, but at a time when the left is increasingly wary of the Afghanistan war, Obama risks their support with this quiet addition.

  • Risking Progressive Revolt Spencer Ackerman finds eroding support for the war, and for Obama, among liberals. "Powerful progressive groups and members of Congress that quietly accepted Obama's infusion of 21,000 new troops for Afghanistan this spring, however uncomfortably, are finding their footing to oppose the current one, even if they are not yet demanding fixed dates for troop withdrawals. It is unclear what effect they will ultimately have on the debate, but, buoyed by polls demonstrating the war's unpopularity, they complicate Obama's decision-making," Ackerman writes in the Washington Independent. "It will not be easy to predict how the emerging antiwar movement impacts the president's decisions, particularly as much of the overlapping progressive infrastructure views the healthcare reform fight as its primary effort -- and there the Obama administration is a crucial ally."
  • Indirectly Boosting Combat Troops? Kevin Drum suspects the surge in support troops may really be about increasing the number of combat troops. The Pentagon announced last month that it would replace 14,000 support troops with combat troops, notes Drum, a blogger for Mother Jones. "So the Pentagon is pulling out 14,000 support troops and replacing them with combat troops, and then they're sending over 13,000 new support troops to help out all the combat troops."
  • Not Nearly Enough Michael Scheuer argues we'll need more than this to have an impact "Americans are watching a shellshocked Obama administration trying to decide what to do about Gen. Stanley McChrystal's urgent request for 40,000-45,000 additional U.S. troops," Scheuer, a former CIA counterterrorism official, writes in Foreign Policy. "This issue merits debate, but that must wait until McChrystal gets the troops needed to delay defeat. Afterward, only the all-out use of large, conventional U.S. military forces can be expected to have a shot at winning in Afghanistan. [...] That said, military victory would require 400,000 to 500,000 additional troops, the wide use of land mines (even if Princess Diana spins in her grave), and the killing of the enemy and its civilian supporters in the numbers needed to make them admit the game is not worth the candle."
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