Hit & Run

Obama's Afghanistan Problem

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In his latest Washington Post column, George Will says it's time to reassess America's war in Afghanistan, arguing that "forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters." The Atlantic's Benjamin F. Carlson provides a round up of conservative reaction here.

To those who followed his column throughout the Bush years, Will's about-face on Afghanistan (he was an initial supporter of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is hardly surprising, and it will doubtless have a negligible impact on the wider question of whether the United States should continue fighting the Taliban. Liberal opposition to the "surge" in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is starting to worry the White House. Politico's Mike Allen reports that administration officials are increasingly fearing "liberal pressure" on Afghanistan: 

White House officials are increasingly worried liberal, anti-war Democrats will demand a premature end to the Afghanistan war before President Barack Obama can show signs of progress in the eight-year conflict, according to senior administration sources. 

These fears, which the officials have discussed on the condition of anonymity over the past few weeks, are rising fast after U.S. casualties hit record levels in July and August. 

The aides also expressed concern that Afghan election returns, still being tallied, will result in a narrow reelection for President Hamid Karzai that could result in qualms about his legitimacy—"Tehran II," as one official put it, in reference to the disputed Iranian election. 

The result: some think Afghanistan—not health care—will be the issue that defines the early years of the Obama administration.