Decision delay endangers lives

Friday, November 13, 2009

Over two months after receiving an assessment and recommendations from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Pres. Obama on Wednesday rejected all options his national security team has been discussing.

The president wants new options and changes in Afghan government before committing more troops. The United Kingdom and Australia have both reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan. The NATO defense ministers have given support to McChrystal's plan.

Some see the president's pondering of the war as "dithering" and giving comfort and a morale boost to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Others argue that he wants to be assured of an exit strategy before making the commitment of troops.

Perception can often become reality. During the campaign, candidate Obama received regular intelligence updates on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the election and during the transition, the incoming administration was briefed on the plans that had been in place. An argument can be made that the president has had a year already to make this decision.

Spending over two months with the recommendations and asking for a "do-over" is not an acceptable option. With all due respect, we need to act, and we need to act now.

This is not an easy thing for us to say, since we realize that members of our community will soon be shipping out for a rotation in Afghanistan. But if failure in Afghanistan is not an option, short of declaring victory and leaving, what other option is there, but to send more troops?

Many experts agree that Afghanistan is frozen in time with a society and economy of 400 years ago. Corruption, drug and human trafficking are common. If we are seeking to build up an Afghan military and police force so we can leave, how will the nation be able to pay the soldiers?

One thing is certain. The longer this rumination goes on, the more likely our allies will go home, further endangering the troops already on the ground.

Time to make up your mind, Mr. President.