AfPak: A war of choices

Let's say you're president of the United States and you've just won the Nobel prize for peace. Naturally, you convene a meeting of your war council, where your national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, estimates the size of the terrorist threat from Afghanistan as follows:
"The al-Qaida presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies."
Do you
a) declare you've won and return the troops home,
b) ramp up the war and focus it on al-Qaida?
If you're Barack Obama, apparently, you choose b). In fact, according to various reports out of Washington, the president's military advisers are limiting his choices to escalating the war a little and escalating it a lot. The Age reports
Obama will determine how many more US troops to deploy to Afghanistan based only on keeping al-Qaeda at bay.

General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, is believed to have presented Obama with a number of options, ranging from adding as few as 10,000 troops to as many as 40,000.
Missing from the options, of course, are "none" and "return home."

Actually, according to The Wall Street Journal, one of McChrystal's options called for more than 60,000 additional troops, and some officials said the maximum number was even larger. McChrystal is said to be worried that some of Mr. Obama’s senior advisers believe that the Taliban are not a direct threat to the United States. Because it would be hard to justify sending an army more than 100,000 strong in pursuit of a criminal gang that probably numbers less than 100.

The rest of the story: US to switch focus from Taliban to al-Qaeda by Philip Elliott (The Age 2009-10-11)
In the Afghan War, Aim for the Middle by Richard N. Haass (The Washington Post 2009-10-11)
Obama Hears General’s Troop Request for Afghanistan by Peter Baker (The New York Times 2009-10-09)
Afghan War Debate Now Leans to Focus on Al Qaeda by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt (The New York Times 2009-10-07)

Must read: A War of Absurdity by Robert Scheer (TruthDig 2009-10-06)

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