Is Team Obama Really Rethinking Afghanistan?

Is Team Obama Really Rethinking Afghanistan?

Some speculation in the press has suggested that the current White House deliberations on General McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan might be largely a political tactic. One theory has suggested that President Obama is running the clock, delaying his decision so he won't have to cross Democrats in Congress while health care reform is hanging fire. Another suggests that the deliberation is for show, so that Democrats will believe that Obama didn't rush to judgment, only reluctantly accepting McChrystal's request after serious deliberation and evaluation.

But two recent articles in the Wall Street Journal suggest that Obama and his advisers are indeed rethinking key assumptions which have underpinned U.S. policy.

On October 5, the Journal reported that President Obama had pressed military commanders over whether "the Taliban still has close ties to al Qaeda and whether the international terrorist group would continue to have a haven should the Taliban regain control of parts of the country."

On October 6, the Journal reported that "intelligence and military officials say they've severely constrained al Qaeda's ability to operate there and in Pakistan - and that's reshaping the debate over U.S. strategy in the region." Some officials, including aides to U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, have argued that "the Taliban wouldn't allow al Qaeda to regain its footing inside Afghanistan, since it was the alliance between the two that cost the Taliban their control of the country after Sept. 11."