Obama Must Review Our Afghanistan Strategy

The current policy doesn't work, and it alienates his Democratic base.

Soldiers patrol in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers patrol in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

The recent release of more than 90,000 documents by Wikileaks gives the strong impression that President Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan is in disarray. The body count of U.S. soldiers is rising. Last month represented the highest number of monthly U.S. casualties to date in Afghanistan, and this month’s casualty figures may be worse.

Meanwhile, the administration has not proffered an operational vision of what constitutes success in this conflict. It has provided billions of dollars in assistance to Pakistan, whose intelligence service is alleged to be promoting Taliban efforts to kill U.S. soldiers and topple the current Afghan government. Lavishing billions on such an ally is a mind-bending example of how out of touch the administration is on the war effort. It is a feat that even President Lyndon Johnson didn’t match at the height of the Vietnam War. The administration needs to reconsider its strategy.

The war effort has cast a burgeoning sense of doubt among members of Obama’s own political party. Exactly 102 House Democrats opposed the recent House passage of a bill authorizing $37 billion in additional funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Democrats are growing weary of supplying more money to fight wars while at home, Americans are losing their jobs. The new funding is in addition to the approximately $130 billion Congress already approved for Iraq and Afghanistan. (Congress has approved more than $1 trillion for the two operations since 2001.)

These lawmakers represent constituencies that form Obama’s support base. More core supporters and independents will abandon him the longer this conflict continues. His disapproval rating already stands at an all-time high of 49 percent. Meanwhile, support for Obama’s handling of Afghanistan now stands at 36 percent. Further political polarization around the war effort is inevitable. The war in Afghanistan makes Obama appear too much like George W. Bush. And the worry is that an Afghan conflict without a clear vision of relevance and success will inspire the Democratic base to sit on its hands come November.