President Obama is set to unveil his administration's strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In a speech tonight at 8pm at West Point, he is expected to announce the addition of 34,000 troops and a long-term exit strategy. Can it work? Afghanistan experts and armchair generals alike weigh in.
- Emphasize Training Afghan Force Former Navy officer Robert Diamond argues they're the key. "Sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan will be enough to put the insurgency on the run, provide a security umbrella for development and allow the Afghan government to continue to extend its reach. But 30,000 troops will not be enough to permanently defeat the insurgency, and that is why the training of the Afghan army is so critical to this."
- 'Clear, Hold and Duct Tape' The New York Times's David Brooks finds deteriorating support in Washington for the strategy of counterinsurgency (COIN). "The administration seems to have spent the past few months trying to pare back the COIN strategy and adjust it to real world constraints. As it has done so, there has been less talk in the informed policy community about paving the way for a new, transformed Afghanistan. There has been more talk of finding cheap ways to arrange the current pieces of Afghanistan into a contraption that will stay together and allow us to go home."
- Waste of Resources and Lives The New York Times's Bob Herbert shakes his head. "After going through an extended period of highly ritualized consultations and deliberations, the president has arrived at a decision that never was much in doubt, and that will prove to be a tragic mistake," he writes. "It would have taken real courage for the commander in chief to stop feeding our young troops into the relentless meat grinder of Afghanistan, to face up to the terrible toll the war is taking -- on the troops themselves and in very insidious ways on the nation as a whole."
- The Increase Is Affordable The Washington Post endorses the price tag. "Mr. Obama will probably propose sending 30,000 more troops, and White House officials have been estimating that every 1,000 will cost $1 billion. But the Pentagon says the price will be half that much and that any troop escalation will occur gradually over the next year and a half. So the actual cost of the troop increase next year will almost certainly be less than the $30 billion reduction in spending that the administration expects this year in Iraq because of planned troop withdrawals. Even if all the fresh forces remain in Afghanistan for several years, by 2012 total war spending would be half the $180 billion of 2008."
- We Have to Try Spencer Ackerman worries about the risks of doing nothing. "I would say the case for escalation is a case based on the national interest. That is, escalation in Afghanistan is necessary to secure our legitimate security interest against al-Qaeda," he writes. "I think the risks of continuing Afghan instability, providing al-Qaeda with greater strategic depth, trump the risks of not trying."