President Obama told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the Bush administration had lost its focus in Afghanistan and that his team will “refocus attention on al Qaeda.”
Michael Shear for WaPo:
President Obama said yesterday that his predecessor’s administration had lost its “focus” on the war in Afghanistan, forcing the creation of a new strategy that is aimed narrowly at defeating the terrorists who run their operations from there and Pakistan.
“What we want to do is refocus attention on al-Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on the eve of his first overseas trip. He added: “We have to ensure that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can serve as a safe haven for al-Qaeda.”
Obama said last week that he would boost the reinforcements heading to Afghanistan this summer to 21,000 troops, bringing total U.S. forces there to more than 60,000. At that level, he said yesterday, “we now have resourced properly this strategy. It’s not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources. We’ve just got to make sure that we are focused on achieving what we need to achieve with the resources we have.”
Except — and I hate to sound like a broken record here — the administration has no exit strategy for Afghanistan. It claims to have milestones but has not actually articulated any.
As to the idea that the mission previously lacked a focus on the al Qaeda threat, we are already beating al Qaeda, with senior U.S. officials saying the terrorist group’s leadership has been “decimated” and saying a “complete al Qaeda defeat” is in the offing.
Obama spent two years campaigning for president and promising to double down on Afghanistan. Arguably, at least, his criticism of the Bush policy was quite apt when he began that mantra. But it’s rather silly to make a big show of unveiling a new plan that’s essentially the old plan.