Tonight I listened to President Obama’s speech to the cadets at West Point. In general, I was very pleased to hear that he is planning on increasing our effort in that country to go after terrorist organization Al Qaeda and the Taliban who support them. I agree that our efforts in Afghanistan have been adversely affected by our mistaken focus on Iraq. I think we took our eye off the ball by going into Iraq and it ended up being a huge and costly distraction from getting the terrorists that attacked us in 2001. I agree that we need to work closely with the Pakistanis on their side of the border to avoid giving Al Qaeda and the Taliban a refuge.
The one problem I had with the speech was the plan to begin returning troops in 18 months during Summer of 2011. I’m concerned that is not enough time to get the Afghan troops on their feet. Hopefully, his following statement indicates we go longer in needed (emphasis mine, link):
But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We’ll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government — and, more importantly, to the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.
I hope this indicates that the troops will come home only after Al Qaeda and the Taliban are run into the ground. I’m sure some people will complain that the troops aren’t coming home yet and others will predictably attack the President for taking too long to decide or having a plan for withdrawal but this war has been going on for eight years. This war is older than both my kids. We need to get serious, go after the enemy, and finish them off.