President Obama pledged to send 30,000 additional combat troops to Afghanistan during the first part of 2010. In a speech at West Point, the transcript of which is at the LA Times, the President outlined a strategy that would see troops begin to come home 18 months after the surge. He also listed goals that will be tied to conditions on the ground (meaning no artificial timetable … does that contradict the 18 month countdown to drawdown?), including continued training to Afghan security forces, increased support for Pakistan and support for the Afghan government’s efforts to re-embrace “moderate” Taliban who renounce violence.
Obama talked of responsibly ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a sentiment which I most certainly appreciate. He also spoke of the cost of the wars and the effect of our national security on our economy. The link is undeniably there as wartime spending is a drain on the national budget, but as Allahpundit notes, it would be refreshing to see that kind of fiscal concern over other areas of governmental policy as well. One has to wonder the extent to which the President views the war as more of a distraction to his sweeping domestic agenda rather than a critical foreign policy test – not for him personally, but for our entire nation.
Gen. McChrystal issued a statement expressing his gratitude in a clear mission and his belief that the resources the President is allocating will be sufficient to complete the job. I hope he’s right, and while no one should celebrate the deployment of more soldiers into harm’s way, from a strategic perspective it seems to be the best decision at the moment. The President himself listed the reasons it would be pointless to cut and run or to continue with present troop levels.
My deep disagreements with the President’s domestic policies don’t overshadow my desire for him to chart a responsible path out of Iraq and Afghanistan that lets us claim a real victory and not one borne out of rhetorically shifting goalposts. The outcome of our presence in those two countries is too important to be engulfed by partisan considerations. In this area of national security, there’s no room for “I hope he fails.”
Instead, I hope the President’s current track is the right one. As always, the real test will be in the execution of the strategy. Keep praying for our men and women in uniform.
Update: Ed Morrissey’s thinking is very similar to my own, and he sums up the pros and cons of Obama’s address a lot better than I did.