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US opinion on Afghan strategy

The US ambassador in Kabul has written to the White House to oppose sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan. In the US media columnists, bloggers and commentators have been weighing into a long debate about US strategy.

Jamie M Fly, writing in the National Review was among those criticising what conservative commentators have called Mr Obama's "dithering":

Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future US commitment in Afghanistan.


In the Weekly Standard, Frederick W Kagan and Kimberly Kagan draw attention to what they say are the costs of a delayed decision:

Taliban forces throughout the south have been preparing themselves to meet an expected American counter-offensive. They have refined their propaganda messaging both within Afghanistan and toward the U.S. They have also taken advantage of the flawed presidential elections to expound their own political vision for the country and start actively competing with the government for legitimacy.


But Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly dismisses Republican attacks that he expects if Mr Obama decides to deploy fewer than the 40,000 troops requested Gen McChrystal

If Obama agrees to an escalation under 40,000 troops, Republicans will attack for coming up short. If Obama agrees to an escalation of exactly 40,000 troops, Republicans will attack for taking too long to come to the decision. Either way, it's just craven partisanship.


Writing in Time magazine, Joe Klein says the strategy needs rigorous evaluation, especially since any troop "surge" may not have the same effect it did in Iraq:

Most of the attention the past few weeks has gone to numbers: How many more troops will the president send to Afghanistan? But there is a more important question: How long will he send them for? The military planners assume a five-to-10-year commitment. A more reasonable strategy would be to focus on the next year and see if there's any progress.


Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times argues that a potential annual bill of $100bn (£59.8bn) for troops could otherwise be spent on healthcare reform:

The health reform legislation in Congress is imperfect, of course.... Likewise, troop deployment plans in Afghanistan are imperfect. Some experts think more troops will help. Others think they will foster a nationalist backlash and feed the insurgency (that's my view). So where's the best place to spend $100 billion a year? Is it on patrols in Helmand? Or is it to refurbish our health care system…?


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