Obama is going to start a troop surge in Afghanistan. Robert Gates is to continue in his post:
Mr Gates is a strong believer in an Afghan surge, which would not only put thousands more boots on the ground but involve negotiations with malleable branches of the Taliban.
It would also aim to boost co-operation with Iran and Pakistan where some elements have supported the anti-Western insurgency.
The need for more US troops in addition to the 32,000 already serving, has been accelerated by the Afghan presidential election in September 2009, and the voter registration process that begins in the New Year, Mr Gates said.
“The most important objective for us for 2009 in Afghanistan is a successful election,” he said at a meeting of defence ministers from the eight countries fighting in southern Afghanistan. “One of the things we talked about was trying to surge as many forces as we can prior to the election, to try and provide a secure environment for the election.”
The Pentagon chief, who has been in the position for two years, added that he wanted to send another three brigades of combat ground forces and an aviation brigade, beginning as early as next spring.
A Pentagon official said the plans are likely to be drawn up before Mr Obama takes office on Jan 20. Most will be sent to the poppy-growing South, where the need for more Western forces is greatest, and where 8,000 British troops are currently fighting.
A spokesman said the final number was likely to be “well north of 20,000”, and indicated that countries such as Britain already fighting in the south would not face strong US demands to provide more troops.
In an alternate reality Melanie Phillips is now arguing that the Obama administration has placed the free world in peril (even before it gets into office):
on foreign policy you can’t slide a cigarette paper between left and right, who all agree that the ‘centrist’ position to be taken by all sensible individuals is ‘engagement’, aka appeasement of those with unconscionable agendas who say in terms ‘we don’t want to talk to you — we want to kill you’. The result is that the anti-western left, the isolationist right and peace-process zealots all come together in common cause. This is exactly what the developing Obama administration looks like.
The outcome is likely to be that the enemies of the free world will be strengthened even more, their victims even more ruthlessly abandoned and true moderates still more grievously undermined. And time now is fast running out.
We are all doomed!