The WaPo reports some good news on Afghanistan - our Group Facilitator-in-Chief has finally found competing factions between which he can mediate. Hey, that's what got him all the way to the top at the Harvard Law Review and it has been his modus operandi ever since.
Here we go:
President Obama has asked the Pentagon's top generals to provide him with more options for troop levels in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials said late Friday, with one adding that some of the alternatives would allow Obama to send fewer new troops than the roughly 40,000 requested by his top commander.
The military chiefs have been largely supportive of a resource request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that would by one Pentagon estimate require the deployment of 44,000 additional troops. But opinion among members of Obama's national security team is divided, and he now appears to be seeking a compromise solution that would satisfy both his military and civilian advisers.
What, you were expecting the competing factions to include representatives from the Afghan government, or (gasp!) some Afghan warlords who might drop the Taliban and switch sides? Please, baby steps.
Now, when Rumsfeld kept grinding on his generals to produce a plan for Iraq with fewer troops, it was the denounced from the left as a politicized Amateur Hour and the worst thing in the world. But now that General Joe Biden is taking the lead, it's all good.
Before he can determine troop levels, his advisers have said, he must decide whether to embrace a strategy focused heavily on counterinsurgency, which would require additional forces to protect population centers, or one that makes counterterrorism the main focus of U.S. efforts in the country, which would rely on relatively fewer American troops.
One option under review involves a blend of the two approaches, featuring an emphasis on counterterrorism in the north and some parts of western Afghanistan as well as an expanded counterinsurgency effort in the south and east, one of the officials said. Obama has also asked for a province-by-province review of the country to determine which areas can by managed effectively by local leaders.
The WaPo is far too kind to mention that Obama announced a counter-insurgency strategy last March. However, they drift towards criticism with this comparison to the Bush surge in early 2007:
In contrast to Iraq, where there was significant dissension on whether to deploy an additional 30,000 troops in 2007, the top brass has been mostly united in the support of McChrystal's call for more troops in Afghanistan.
Obama needs to pick a reasonable strategy and pursue it with conviction. Unfortunately, in addition to questions about his tenacity there is the problem that he knows nothing about military matters, so the only real conviction he could develop is that he has followed a sensible decision-making process and accepted sound advice from knowledegable people.
Our Facilitator-in-Chief is steering towards a consensus decision; all his advisors will support it but none will believe in it, other than as a plausible compromise.