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White House Preparing to Send More Troops to Afghanistan?

6:59 PM, Aug 31, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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At the White House press briefing today, Robert Gibbs gave the impression that there's a good chance that Obama will send more troops to Afghanistan:

I think there's broad agreement that for many years our effort in Afghanistan has been under-resourced politically, militarily, economically. [...]

You can't under-resource the most important part of our war on terror, you can't under-resource that for five or six or seven years -- whether it's under-resourced with troops, whether it's under-resourced with civilian manpower, whether it's under-resourced with economic development funding -- and hope to snap your fingers and have that turn around in just a few months.

I think that what the President enunciated throughout the campaign and actualized as part of this administration was to change our direction in Afghanistan, to understand it was the central focus; that in Afghanistan and in the hills separating Afghanistan and Pakistan were those again plotting to do us harm, and that for far too long we've ignored that with the resources that were necessary to deal with the size and the scope of the problem that existed there. [...]

this was under-resourced, under-funded, under-manned and ignored for years and that's not going to change overnight.

Gibbs could have stuck with a general statement that Afghanistan was "under-resourced", but by specifically saying that it was "undermanned" and "under-resourced with troops" he seemed to give the impression that the White House is preparing the left for an increase in the troop levels there. Gibbs was so passionate in his defense of the administration's policy that he used the verboten phrase "war on terror" instead of the preferred "overseas contingency operation."

Gibbs went on to say that the war in Afghanistan is "winnable" --"based on some initial reporting that I've seen of General McChrystal's report, he says the situation is quite serious but the war is indeed winnable."

I can't find an instance of Obama using the word "win" in reference to Afghanistan since last summer, when he said that Afghanistan is "a war that we must win, and we must incapacitate those who would do America harm."

President Obama has said of late that he doesn't like to use the word "victory" to describe our goal in Afghanistan, saying instead, as he did before the VFW on August 17, that our goal is to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies." How "victory" differs from the defeat of one's enemy has never been quite clear. But the White House nevertheless seems to be giving indications that Obama intends to be in Afghanistan for the long haul.

Gibbs continued to expand on what a win in Afghanistan would look like: In addition to "disrupting, dismantling, and destroying al Qaeda and its extremist allies," Gibbs said, it's important that "we have a government in Afghanistan that is self-sufficient, that we have a security force in that country that's able to deal with the challenges that are presented to it."

Gibbs said, "I don't think it will take close to forever" to achieve these goals, "but I don't know what year that would be."