This delay in making the decision is getting quite absurd. When the election process was still going on, there was an argument that holding back the decision on how many troops to send gave the Americans leverage over Karzai. But now that Karzai has been sworn in for another term this argument no longer holds. Indeed, the delay appears to be making the situation worse. Note this report from Tom Ricks on a speech last week by David Kilcullen, the counter-insurgency expert whose thinking was so important to the military success of the surge in Iraq.
“Without quite saying so, he also indicated that time is a factor right now. "We're seeing a lot of money leaving the country. We're seeing tribes associated with the Northern Alliance re-arming. ... A lot of people are getting nervous." He talked about how attuned local Afghan leaders in remote areas are to American politics, being familiar with the various stances of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Carl Levin. "Right now we're sending kind of a message of indecision."
The danger is that whatever Obama decides now, the message has been sent to Afghanistan that he is very reluctant about the whole mission. That will encourage those who think that it is only a matter of time before America decides that the mission is too hard.
Also, to return to the theme of our cover story this week, it is remarkable that given how long Obama is taking to make this decision he isn’t making more of a show of consulting allies who have troops in the field in Afghanistan. It does show a crass insensitivity to the concerns of those countries that are fighting alongside America.