The Obama Surge in Afghanistan—Smart Move?

There remains a great deal of debate about whether more troops to Afghanistan is the right move.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

As promised during the presidential campaign, President Obama is dramatically stepping up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

As my colleague (and next-door-office neighbor) reports:

Officials say that they will make no further deployment decisions until the White House completes its Afghanistan strategy review, which they estimate will happen in late March. In the meantime, McKiernan noted this week that "even with these additional forces, I have to tell you that 2009 is going to be a tough year."

There is clear consensus about that around the halls of the Pentagon. Even as units rapidly prepare to depart, senior military officials are struggling to respond to a series of dangerous twists in the troubled region, some of which have led them to doubt whether troops will be able to blunt an increasingly brutal insurgency without a clearer sense of what, exactly, victory in Afghanistan resembles.

It's a serious gamble for the president who campaigned against one war and is now poised to embrace another. And questions remain about whether it will work. Over in our weekly digital edition, we have an interesting argument over whether this is a smart strategy.

John Nagl from the Center for a New American Security argues that an Afghan surge is necessary:

American goals in Afghanistan have suffered from the most fundamental of all strategic errors: insufficient resources to accomplish maximalist goals.

He goes on to explain that while more U.S. troops are necessary, in the long term the Afghans must fend for themselves.

Andrew Bacevich, a military historian at Boston University, takes the opposite view, arguing that between 9/11 and now we've lost our focus and purpose.

Both pieces are worth a read. If you haven't, you can subscribe to our weekly edition here.

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