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President Obama took to the airwaves to bob and weave on Afghanistan. When will he make a decision? Why hasn’t he already? He won’t say and gives every indication that a massive stall is underway. He goes as far as to suggest that he’s still lacking a strategy from his military.

One problem: that explanation is apparently false. The Washington Post gets its leak:

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in failure,” according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.

August 30? Yup. So what’s holding up a decision? One can’t help but conclude that the president lacks the will to make the tough call in a timely fashion to start on that 12-month effort to gain back the initiative. It’s daunting to make a tough national-security call in the face of domestic opposition from your own party. But at this point it seems that it’s only domestic politics—not a lack of facts or a failure to receive a recommendation—that’s holding back the president. To the contrary, Obama is getting a clear and unequivocal message from General McChrystal: “Again and again, McChrystal makes the case that his command must be bolstered if failure is to be averted.”

And yet the president dawdles—waiting for what? Is it health care or some other agenda item that concerns him? We don’t know, but what is evident by the McChrystal recommendation ( and by the apparent need to leak its contents, stemming no doubt from frustration with the White House stall) is that there is good reason to be concerned that the president’s failure to make a prompt decision may in and of itself impair our ability to succeed. The president may not like what he’s hearing (“Toward the end of his report, McChrystal revisits his central theme: ‘Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure’”), but he owes the country a timely decision—or at least an honest explanation as to why he finds it so hard to make up his mind.


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