Obama's Afghanistan Strategy a Political Winner, But 'Long Hard Slogs' Lie Ahead

Quick success on the ground is uncertain, but "hard is not hopeless."


By John A. Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

For much of the last two days, I have been watching Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal testify before Congress on the war in Afghanistan.

I cannot say I am any more optimistic that President Obama's escalation of the war will lead to quick success.

This morning, Petraeus warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the addition of 30,000 more U.S. troops is not going to immediately change the situation in Afghanistan, like a similar "surge" did in Iraq.

"There will be no planting a flag and going home to a victory parade," the head of U.S. Central Command said. "These are long hard slogs."

A year from now, after a bloody fighting season in which violence and allied casualties will surely rise, the United States should see signs of improvement, Petraeus promised.

"Everything in Afghanistan is hard, and it is hard all the time," he said. But "hard is not hopeless."

To triumph, the United States will have to put immense pressure on the Afghan government, which is riddled with corruption. Victory won't come, Petraeus said, unless Afghanistan's government is "increasingly seen as serving the people rather than preying on them," as it is now.

To the extent that Obama's decision was influenced by political considerations, it looks like a winner.

The Republicans on the House and Senate panels flopped about, like fish in a rowboat, trying to find something nasty to say.

But with Petraeus and McChrystal praising the president, and whole-heartedly endorsing the U.S. strategy, the GOPers were without their favorite talking point: that Democrats are craven defeatists in the face of the international jihadist threat.

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