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How the Af-Pak Strategy Came To Be

Check out The New York Times’ tick-tock of how the Obama team came to its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Two observations. One, Vice President Joe Biden is

Paolo Reyna
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Mar 30, 2009

Check out The New York Times’ tick-tock of how the Obama team came to its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Two observations.

One, Vice President Joe Biden is described as the voice of “caution.” But that appears to be cashed out in terms of Biden urging a clearer, al-Qaeda-based objective for the mission. No one in the story is described as advocating a reduced commitment to Afghanistan or Pakistan. No one in the story is described as discussing a fixed endpoint for either the commitment in general or its military component in particular.

Two — and this is my inference — it sounds like there was some pressure from the military for a greater troop increase. I have not heard anything like that before. It’s possible that such pressure refers to Gen. David McKiernan’s original request for 30,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. Between former President George W. Bush and President Obama, McKiernan got 23,000. Now he’s got another 4,000 as trainers. The Times piece describes Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who in January said he would not support any troop increase above McKiernan’s request, as favoring the 4,000-trainer increase as a way to “tempe[r] the commanders’ request” and put off debate over another round of increases until the end of the year. How many more troops would be up for discussion then, though? The remaining 3,000 in McKiernan’s request? Or a commitment over and above what Gates said he’d support?

On Friday, Denis McDonough, the National Security Council’s director for strategic communications, candidly told a bunch of us bloggers that the administration couldn’t yet know if they had reached the necessary and/or sufficient amount of resources for their strategy. Saying that the administration wanted to be guided by “fact-based considerations,” they “can’t be certain the number is right. It might be too many, it might be not enough.” But Obama “feels very confident that he has the right strategy, and we want to measure resources against that.”

Paolo Reyna | Paolo is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in International Studies with a Latin American emphasis. During the fall semester of 2012, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, which piqued his interest in international growth. He learned about the disparities that impact indigenous peoples, got a taste of Peruvian culture, and improved his Spanish skills. Mitchel interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America, after being inspired by his foreign experience. He wants to work in international development and for a government department, writing legislation. He loves playing intramural basketball and practicing for the Chicago marathon when he is not thinking about current events in Latin America.


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