The options on the table before the Obama Administration War Cabinet all involved escalating the occupation by as many as 80,000 troops. The president wants other options as he continues dithering.

President Barack Obama is not satisfied to execute on any of the options his national security team have brought to the table, “pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government”, the Associated Press (AP) reports tonight from a senior administration official. The Afghan government has shown itself to be nothing more or less than a brutal mafia. The druglords and warlords are now the taxmen—rightfully scrutinized for being immoral, but actually just acting as a government.

The news comes as Karl Eikenberry, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, “sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai’s government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban’s rise”, The Washington Post reported earlier from senior officials.

At today’s meeting with the War Council, Mr. Obama entertained—what was referred to throughout the day as—“the four options”, which WaPo reported would cost around $1bn per thousand troops. Christi Parsons and Julian Barnes reported them at the Los Angeles Times as:

  1. At least 40,000 additional troops, the ‘medium-risk’ option from General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of the U.S.-led occupation—the ‘low-risk’ option being an escalation of 80,000 troops;
  2. 34,000 additional troops, including 23,000 for combat and support, 7,000 for the occupiers’ command base and 4,000 trainers, officials confirmed over the weekend;
  3. 20,000 additional troops, the ‘high-risk’ option from Gen. McChrystal—“known by military planners as ‘the hybrid’,” WaPo reports, “to shore up security in 10 to 12 major population areas”; and
  4. around 12,000 additional troops, supported by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), more geared toward counterterrorism operations, maintaining the same troop level for counterinsurgency.

Mr. Obama was “leaning toward” escalating the occupation by 34,000 and announcing it after his trip to Asia in a week, Jonathan Landay reported at McClatchy over the weekend.

“The sense that he was being rushed and railroaded has stiffened Obama’s resolve to seek information and options beyond military planning, officials said, though a substantial troop increase is still likely,” the AP reports tonight, adding: “The options presented to Obama by his War Council will now be amended.”

Since Mr. Obama began his presidential run in early 2007, he referred to the occupation of Afghanistan as a “war of necessity”. Leading political scientists, notably Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, see no reason for such an assessment.

Counterterrorism operations have been dubbed by human rights groups and military officials as “death from above”, as strikes have killed 49 civilians for every terrorist leader assassinated. It’s uncontroversial such civilian casualties are counter-intuitive to “winning the hearts of minds of the population”, as Gen McChrystal reported to the president was crucial to avoid “mission failure”.

The argument for shifting to a counterterrorism mission is the concern over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the possibility of Afghanistan or Pakistan becoming a ‘safe haven’ or ‘base of operations’ for ‘terrorists to conduct operations against the U.S. and the fulfillment of juvenile revenge fantasies over 9/11.

Seymour Hersh wrote of the politics toward understanding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal at The New Yorker over the weekend, of which Little Alex partially analyzed. He discussed the battle between the military and the White House over the Afghanistan occupation and his article with Rachel Maddow this evening (7:18):

Here at Wonderland, we’re not giving the president as much credit as Mr. Hersh. (In his defense, Mr. Hersh was probably not aware that the reports actually stated there was no indication Mr. Obama would cease to escalate the occupation, as Ms. Maddow mistook.) Our message to the president remains the same: Stop dithering and bring the troops home, now!

To execute a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies would need to commit at least another 100,000 troops to begin building an Afghan Security Force of 400,000. This assessment was made by us before military officials confirmed the number, 600,000, as the amount of counterinsurgent forces needed to begin stablizing Afghanistan.

“Nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try,” George Will wrote at WaPo over two months ago. “Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.”.

On Veterans Day, we’re reminded of the deaths of U.S. soldiers during war, but the casualties of war remain, recklessly, forgotten.

“On MSNBC, and the other cable hawkers of government propaganda this morning, veterans were absent, despite the constant invocation of Veterans Day,” Lew Rockwell, Jr., president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, commented. “All the photos and discussion were of active-duty troops in the various U.S. occupations. None of the kids with missing limbs or brain parts were shown, the actual veterans, nor that single-payer Hell, the V.A. medical system and its inmates. It was all lies about the glory of war, by a caw-cawing bunch of chickenhawks.”

In-action U.S. casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan total over 90,000, on record. “That includes a tire-screeching 75,134 dead, wounded-in-action, and medically evacuated due to illness, disease, or injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and 14,323 and counting in Afghanistan, or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF),” Kelley B. Vlahos reports at, adding:

Larry Scott, who runs, an invaluable daily monitor of ongoing issues affecting the 23.4 million living U.S veterans, said the 90,591 figure relating to OIF/OEF casualties is valid—and ultimately overwhelming. “People just forget, they don’t realize there is an ongoing cost of war. Whether you agree with the war or not is not the issue. We have to be ready to pay the price.”

Documents from the government and non-governmental organizations have found that 170,000 veterans of the Vietnam Counterinsurgency have committed suicide, Dahr Jamail reported at AntiWar Radio today. The Veterans Health Administration confirmed in an email dated 15 December 2007: 6,552 veterans commit suicide every year—126 every week, 18 every day. Any suicide survivor can attest to the fact that the casualties of every suicide are exponential to the statistic itself.

The RAND Corportation, according to the Online Journal in April 2008, stated around 300,000 troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering major depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—better known as shell shock—and nearly 370,000 received traumatic brain injuries.

Any native of a nation-state invaded by the U.S. Armed Forces can attest to the fact that for every U.S. casualty is a potential nationwide population of human beings and property and natural resources damaged or destroyed.

Mr. Obama won the 2008 presidential election with 52.9% of the vote. That was a year ago. Today, a CNN poll reports 56% of those polled oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan and 58% oppose the occupation as a whole.

Mr. President, politics has a price. Life does not. Morality exceeds value. Integrity makes you a man. Defying power with integrity makes you a leader.

End the occupation of Afghanistan. Yes, you can.

  1. al-Husayn says:

    Obama has been stalling on this issue for a while. This tells me that all options basically end in defeat. As you say, Obama needs to admit that the game is up and put an end to the pointless war. I would be incredibly suprised if this happened, however.

    A question: It is not clear to me, is the counterterrorism plan supported by John Kerry, the same as Joe Biden’s counterterrorism plan?

    Details of Bidens proposal:

  2. […] president passed on the ‘options’ brought to him as they did not include benchmarks to meet before withdrawal. This misses the point […]

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