President Obama seems set on issuing a series of conflicting messages concerning the new strategy in Afghanistan. He has said that the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan by the time his term is over (and hopefully he's assuming he'll be reelected) and apparently he will emphasize this again during his speech. Yet this report in the Wall Street Journal says the administration opposes the expansion of the Afghan security forces:
But the administration seems prepared to reject another of Gen. McChrystal's top priorities: his call to double the size of the Afghan police and army over the next few years.
The administration now favors an alternative plan that would seek to build a larger Afghan security force, but one that would be considerably smaller than what Gen. McChrystal had wanted, these people said. The president is likely to talk about Afghan troops Tuesday, without specifying a growth target for expanding their ranks.
"The president has a realistic view of how successful the training regimen can be, and that has helped inform his decision," a senior administration official said Sunday.
Placing less emphasis on Afghan forces risks irking Democrats leery about an extended and expensive escalation. On CBS's "Face the Nation," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said the president needs to show how a surge would speed the training and deployment of Afghan soldiers to ensure Democratic support. "The key here is an Afghan surge, not an American surge," he said.
If the U.S. is set on withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2017, who will fill the gap in security? One reason the United States was successful in transitioning security in Iraq to the Iraqi Security Forces is that there were large number of Iraqi soldiers and police on hand. This Iraqi surge in forces is one of the major reasons the U.S. has been able to scale back forces. If President Obama wants to responsibly pull troops back from Afghanistan in the next seven years, he had better start the process of massively expanding the Afghan Army and police now.