Friday, December 4, 2009


After more than three months of meetings and deliberations with top political, diplomatic and military leaders President Barack Obama delivered to the American People his strategy for Afghanistan. At least that’s what the White House would like us to have come away from the speech thinking.

After watching Mr. Obama deliver yet another unremarkable televised address to the nation intended to lay out his reasoning and strategy for defeating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, this correspondent was left feeling that the president’s “strategy” for Afghanistan was to appease everyone, please no one and set the stage for a full retreat from what he has called “the war of necessity”.

The speech was unremarkable, in part, because though the administration chose the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as the setting, they failed to get the desired response and impact from the venue. The cadets in attendance, having been made to sit in their seats for four hours before the president’s remarks, looked like they were sitting through a boring lecture, not live remarks by their Commander-in-Chief. Their response to President Obama appeared to be more polite than enthusiastic.

In addition, Obama now looks so rehearsed when he delivers a speech that he lacks any genuine emotion or passion for what he’s discussing. He turns from one side of the audience to the other on cue, to read from the Teleprompters, he taps the podium at a regular interval and doesn’t inspire confidence in his sincerity or his competence.

The most remarkable thing about President Obama’s speech in my view was how in one sentence he talked about sending 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan and in the very next sentence talked about pulling them out after 18 months. The “Community Organizer-in-Chief” displayed his continuing naivety, inexperience and weakness in those two sentences. He is sending 10,000 fewer troops than his handpicked commander, General McChrystal, has said are necessary to avoid “defeat” and he’s setting a timetable for withdrawal (or retreat), as though the Taliban or Al-Qaeda can be convinced to adhere to his schedule.

In fact, the Taliban issued a statement shortly after the speech, saying they will only fight harder when more American soldiers arrive in Afghanistan.

It will take 6 months to deploy the 30,000 additional troops the president has authorized, giving them only 12 months at full strength to achieve their goals. After 18 months, it is unlikely the Afghan Army and Police will be fully trained to takeover from U.S. personnel. It is very likely that Taliban and Al-Qaeda attacks against U.S. and Afghan troops will be up, as will the casualty rates. Could it be that this delay and strategy are designed to turn the public against the war and allow Obama to withdraw all our troops?

The Obama Administration has been using negative rhetoric to portray our Afghan allies, as corrupt and weak. They’ve been laying the ground work to blame the Afghan political leadership and military if we fail.

Obama really didn’t articulate a new strategy and he failed to satisfy either his base on the left, or his opponents on the right. Those on the left want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan immediately. They aren’t happy that Obama is sending additional troops and politically this could hurt Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Those on the right will point to the president “dithering” on his decision and how our troops currently in the field are the ultimately paying the price for the president’s indecision. Conservatives will also correctly point to the fact that the rules of engagement that our military is still restricted by will not allow for victory, a word the administration is loathe to use with regard to Afghanistan.

Ultimately Obama’s Afghan speech was meant to appease everyone, please no one and set the stage for a retreat from that nation, without victory. It won’t improve the morale of servicemen and women, it won’t silence critics on either side of the aisle, it won’t make us safer at home, it won’t make our troops or the Afghan people anymore secure on the ground and it won’t lead to victory in Afghanistan over the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.