What’s needed for Obama’s Afghanistan surge to succeed

James Fallows, the Atlantic writer who is a thoughtful observer of US foreign affairs and an admirer of President Obama, says the president’s newly announced war strategy rests on two “judgment calls.”

1) Whether Al Qaeda/related terrorist groups really do depend so heavily on a specific geographic base in Afghanistan that, if the U.S. can disrupt them there, we won’t have to apply similar efforts later on in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or anyplace else.

2) Whether a limited increase in U.S. troops, for a limited amount of time, really can make a decisive difference — in the long-term stability of the Afghan regime, in the competence of the police and military, in the resistance to a Taliban or terrorist return, and so on, after allowing for any friction or hostility created by the additional presence of U.S. troops.

Fallows is skeptical:

I am no expert on either point.* But I know these things: for Obama’s strategy to pan out, the answer on both calls had better turn out to be Yes. And my observation of the world over the years makes me assume, fear, and expect that the answer to #2 is going to be No. That is what I meant just after the speech in saying, “I hope he’s right.” The alternatives are grim.

*Fallows is being characteristically modest. He is a former presidential speechwriter, a seasoned observer of foreign policy, and the author, among many other things, of Blind into Baghdad, a devastating account of the US invasion of Iraq. If he is skeptical of Obama’s Afghan strategy, it’s chilling news for Canadian policy-makers.

Read the full post, Afghanistan for Beginners.