05 Oct 2009

Obama Preparing to Quit Afghan War?

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Andrew Malcolm, at the LA Times, detects signs that the Obama Administration preparing to cut and run from Afghanistan.

(A)s memories of 9/11 and the attackers’ training sites in Taliban Afghanistan fade, polls show American support for the war there melting, especially within Obama’s own party.

Only about a quarter support sending more troops — and many of that party of Yes are Republicans. They agree with Obama that it’s essential to deny Afghanistan to terrorists and keep Pakistan’s nukes out of their hands.

So what to do?

White House officials say privately no final decisions will be made today. But the thinking will be greatly shaped and the stakes are huge, making healthcare look like a sideshow.

Signs are growing that Obama will seek to change the war goals, to redefine what is success and divert the discussion away from the more-troops measure. It’s not defeat in Afghanistan; it’s victory of a different kind. The president used a similar strategic argument recently when abandoning the Bush administration’s missile defense shield in Europe: it’s not less defense, it’s defense done smarter and cheaper.

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The Telegraph‘s account of anger over General McChrystal’s speech supports the Malcolm thesis.

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little.

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