I just finished listening to Lara Logan interview Sen. Barack Obama from Afghanistan on CBS’s Face the Nation and, as he has before, he advocated increased American troop levels in Afghanistan in order to secure victory there. For all of the complaints about the fuzzy, shifting definition of victory in Iraq I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about what victory in Afghanistan would look like, how it can be achieved, and how much it’s likely to cost. Just to repeat my position I don’t think that anything we’d generally recognize as victory is possible in either Afghanistan or Iraq in a timeframe and at a cost that would be acceptable to the American people. That’s what I thought in 2003, I continue to believe it, and I’ve seen little evidence that would change my calculation.
What is possible, however, is to minimize downside risk in both places but I don’t believe that the strategy for doing that would be the same in both places. What we’re doing right now in Iraq certainly seems to me to be accomplishing that. Perhaps it’s possible to reduce downside risk in Afghanistan but I don’t have any idea of how that would be accomplished. The best outcome I can see there is denying the territory to Al Qaeda and the Taliban which we can do as long as we’re willing to remain in the country. Is a greater objective achievable? How? At what cost?
There more on the interview with Sen. Obama here.