More U.S. troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, a total of 17,000 -- a Marine unit this spring and an army one this summer -- but the new regional strategy remains a work in progress. The troops will supplement the current force of 38,000, and their orders could not wait on the strategy, the President said. Members of Congress are calling for planning that will include more non-military interventions, while generally supporting the Commander in Chief. Part of the plan presupposes a successful drawdown of forces in Iraq, leaving thousands in place for support, training, etc., without jeopardizing the gains already in place there.
General David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was in Washington yesterday and gave an extended press briefing. He said it will be a "tough year" in Afghanistan, and that at this point the situation in the south is, at best, "stalemated." Officials feel that the current troop increase will handle U.S. needs through the summer election there.
President Obama is visiting Canada, his first official "foreign" trip. In addition to a number of other important issues, talk will surely turn to Canada's considerable contributions to the NATO efforts in Afghanistan, upon which the United States heavily depends. President Obama will not ask them to reconsider their troop withdrawal in 2011.
On the subject of needing more troops -- Memeorandum and the New York Times add an interesting twist to the news. It turns out that the U.S. military will begin to recruit skilled immigrants with temporary visas, offering them a chance to become U.S. citizens in as little as six months.
CQ Behind the Lines is a very fine national security newsletter, by Davic C. Morrison, (2/18/09) from which I quote:
Over there: An ex-Gitmo detainee who became an al Qaeda field commander after being repatriated has surrendered, Yemeni officials tell AP — while The New York Times has four Gitmo detainees sent back to Iraq, where they are being interrogated. Pakistani immigrants in New York say Taliban enforcers single out their families for threats and violence, the Times tells.
President Obama faces a very delicate dance with U.S. armed forces deployment. Drawing down in Iraq without destabilizing the country's security, and ramping up in Afghanistan while demanding a significant increase in diplomacy and development, means that our limited military will need to be very carefully managed. I like it that former general Jim Jones is the President's National Secuirty adviser. He is smart and tough, and was NATO's commander not that long ago. If any group could do this dance on a knife edge, this new administration has the talent.
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.