Commentary Magazine


Re: Getting to “Yes”

Fred and Kim Kagan write, “When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year — by the summer of 2010.” But the White House has dropped the ball:

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

They then list a series of critical steps — from expanding Afghan National Security Forces to supporting ongoing operations in Helmand — which could have already been underway if not for the excruciatingly extended debate taking place in the White House. While we have been dithering, “the enemy has not been idle,” they explain:

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.

After delaying and equivocating, the president must, soon we are promised yet again, announce the policy, quiet the critics, regain the confidence of our allies and the Afghanistan government, and impress on the enemy that we really do mean business. This is not impossible, but he and his advisers — egged on by the ever-on-the-wrong-side Joe Biden — have made it much harder. Next time, perhaps they’ll keep Biden and the political consultants away from serious issues of national security.