- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Readers of this blog know that I think the war in Afghanistan is misguided, and I am disappointed that President Obama is about to make what I regard as a major strategic blunder. That said, here are the 5 questions that I’ll be thinking about when I listen to his remarks this evening.
1. Why does he believe that 30,000 more troops will lead to success in Afghanistan, given that the ratio of foreign troops relative to the local population will still be much smaller than the number required for successful military occupations?
2. Even staunch advocates of the war concede that our task is “daunting,” and several independent studies and reports — including General McChrystal’s own assessment — maintain that the United States will have to stay in Afghanistan for at least five to ten years, at a cost of billions of dollars per year. Will the president say this explicitly, or will he try to convince us that these reports are wrong and that it won’t take nearly that long or cost nearly that much?
3. How will this new escalation in Afghanistan deal with al Qaeda’s “safe havens” in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere?
4. What domestic programs or military expenditures will be cut in order to pay for this escalation? Alternatively, what new revenue sources is Obama planning to exploit in order to fund an expanded war? (I don’t really expect him to answer this question, but its one we should all be asking.)
5. How long is he giving the Afghan government to get its act together? Does he set a firm deadline or just some sort of vague benchmark. If the Karzai government cannot or will not reform itself, will Obama explicitly promise the American people that he will disengage? And if he does make such a promise, doesn’t that mean that this is not a “war of necessity” after all?
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Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |