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The Purpose of the Afghan War

The publication of the confidential U.S. strategy review in Afghanistan in today's Washington Post affirms what is already largely known--U.S. military commanders are worried about the course of the war and are signaling the need for thousands more troops. But the assessment from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, submitted to President Barack Obama on August 30, is sure to spur more discussion over the aims of the war. Obama himself asserted on September 20 that there will be no automatic ramping up of U.S. forces despite the stream of warnings from top U.S. military officials. "I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question," Obama said on CNN's State of the Union.

Obama has previously stressed the importance of a stable Afghanistan in the effort to bolster Pakistan's government and pursue al-Qaeda safe havens in that country's tribal areas. Yet some voices in Obama's own Democratic Party in Congress are raising strong doubts about the objectives of the Afghan campaign. Last week saw a surge in briefings in both legislative chambers from experts supporting and opposing an increase in U.S. troop levels there. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Biddle said the decision of whether or not to escalate forces was a "close call" but he came down on the side of increasing troops because of the importance of preventing "Afghan chaos from destabilizing its Pakistani neighbor."

The Weekly Standard's Reuel Marc Gerecht also cites the importance of Afghanistan in the high stakes struggle under way in Pakistan. Gerecht stresses that the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan serves to aid in the Pakistani government's battle with Islamic militants. He writes: "Islamabad appears to be slowly and bloodily winning...

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