Afghanistan is Now Obama’s War

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The phrase “war on terror” may no longer be in vogue, but the fight against terrorism remains a top priority, as confirmed by President Obama’s announcement today:

Obama warned that al-Qaida is actively planning attacks on the United States from secret havens in Pakistan. He said he was setting new benchmarks and sending in 4,000 more troops, hundreds of civilians and increased aid for a war that has lasted more than seven years and still has no end in sight.

“I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future,” Obama said. “That’s the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just.”

The president, who declared last weekend an “exit strategy” was needed for Afghanistan, never used those words in announcing his plans on Friday. His strategy is built on an ambitious goal of boosting the Afghan army from 80,000 to 134,000 troops by 2011 — and greatly increasing training by U.S. troops accompanying them — so the Afghan military can defeat Taliban insurgents and take control of the war.

I’ve always believed there has to be a military aspect to combating terrorism and am willing to trust the president that greater military force is needed in Afghanistan to secure our safety. Given that Obama’s plan has us substantially invested in Afghanistan until at least 2011, this is now his war.

Politically, it’ll be interesting to watch how having a liberal conduct a militaristic war against terrorism compares to having George Bush conduct that war. Some of the familiar narratives of both the left and the right will likely change. After all, like it or not, support for a president and support for current wars tend to strongly interrelate.

Of course, what really matters is that our strategy is sound and our success is substantial. I think most of us can agree on that.