AFGHAN ANNOUNCEMENT A WEEK FROM TODAY…. After a lengthy review process, President Obama reportedly has all the information he needs to craft a new U.S. policy towards Afghanistan. We’ll hear all about it in a televised address to the nation a week from tonight.
For two hours on Monday evening, Mr. Obama held his ninth meeting in the Situation Room with his war council…. The president’s military and national security advisers came back to the president with answers he had requested during previous meetings, most of which focusing on these questions: Where are the off-ramps for the military? And what is the exit strategy?
The conversation settled around sending about 30,000 more American troops, two officials said, the first of whom would deploy early next year to be in place in southern or eastern Afghanistan by the spring. The troop reinforcements would likely be sent in waves, according to an official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss war strategy. […]
While the president is expected by several of his advisers to announce sending more than 20,000 new troops – perhaps closer to the 40,000, as recommended by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal – the White House is working to make the announcement more than simply a number of troops. It will include an outline of an exit strategy, officials said.
That last part is obviously key. The decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan will not be popular with many of the president’s own supporters, many of whom believe the longest war in American history should come to an end. But if the White House has not only decided on the size of an escalation, but also a larger, revamped strategy that features a light at the end of the tunnel, the administration’s new policy may address at least one underlying concern.
In terms of what to expect, leaked reports have varied considerably over the last several weeks, but McClatchy reports that the administration will approve 34,000 additional troops. In terms of the politics, Republicans are likely to attack, not because of the escalation, but because they’ll think the escalation is a brigade or two short. But this will be rather silly. As Spencer Ackerman recently noted, “[L]et’s say that McClatchy is right and Obama goes with 34,000 new troops. Is the Republican Party really going to say that 6,000 troops — basically one to two Army combat brigades — are the difference between success and failure? That’s, well … that just doesn’t make sense.”
The public’s reaction to such a decision is hard to gauge. The latest CNN poll, released this morning, offers a muddled look at public opinion — 45% of Americans said they support the war, while 52% oppose it. The same poll, however, found that 50% support sending additional troops, while 49% do not. So, some who oppose the war nevertheless want to see an escalation?
Nevertheless, we’re likely to see a fairly big push on this. After the president’s prime-time address on Tuesday (12/1), Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will both likely testify before lawmakers on the new U.S. policy. Expect quite a bit of congressional skepticism.