Committed With Qualifiers

In one of the most awaited speeches in some time (with anticipation building like a possible Jolie-Pitt sighting) he spoke. President Barack Obama outlined his goals and strategy before the doe-eyed and grey-clad at the Army’s bastion known as West Point.

In an atmosphere that was more academic than warrior-like and a delivery that was professorial rather than commander in chief, the president outlined the next 18 months for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). The child-warriors watched in silence. Some slept; others snapped away with their digital cameras – all broadcast by the networks. Mr. Obama’s posse was also present. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Silent Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. “King” David Petraeus, resplendent in his blues, and the energizer admiral, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, to name a few. But it was an evening for the academics and warrior wannabes; it was an assurance to a possibly skeptical nation. It was not a rallying of those who would be sent down range in short order.

The president has called for an increase of 30,000 on the ground in Afghanistan. He outlined three objectives: Deny safe haven to the Taliban, reverse the gains made by the Taliban, and strengthen the Afghan Security Forces and the Afghan government.

To accomplish these objectives, the stated strategy (of sorts) is to deploy quickly (so quickly in fact, that here are questions if the Army can meet this rapid deployment schedule). Train the Afghans. Work with “partner” nations. Give attention to Pakistan, since the two nations are “inextricably linked,” a term the Army likes to use but one we find fatalistic, a bit of Chicken Little lexicon, and high-ranking on the drama queen scale.

It should be clear to more than just a few that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway was probably correct (brilliant) in pushing to move his precious Corps out of Iraq and into Afghanistan more than a year ago.

Leaders like Arizona Sen. John McCain expressed support for the president’s plan but took issue with the mention of a drawdown date, saying that conditions on the ground should dictate any exit, not a calendar. But the president was clear that this is a limited “commitment.”

The U.S. Naval Institute published a brief piece from 1961 on commitment. It is worth the read.

It has been reported Afghans on the ground are concerned that an increased U.S. military presence will increase violence. It probably will. They believe strengthening the security forces as well as the government and reducing corruption while getting long-term jobs to stabilize the poor nation is the path to go. Afghans living in the United States emphasize the need for real jobs there. The U.S. says such economic growth can only come in a secure environment without the Taliban. (As long as it happens within the U.S. timetable.)

Is commitment is in the eyes of the beholder?

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