On the eve of President Obama’s address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the war in Afghanistan.
Obama’s “way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan” likely will not change any minds:
As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.
In setting a timetable for withdrawal, Obama telegraphed his punch. The Taliban and al Qaeda will hide out in their caves and wait for our troops to hit the "exit ramp."
The fact sheet that the White House released subsequent to Obama’s speech makes it clear that “building the Afghan capacity” means nation-building:
We will maintain this increased force level for the next 18 months. During this time, we will regularly measure our progress. And beginning in July 2011, we will transfer lead security responsibility to Afghans and start to transition our combat forces out of Afghanistan. As Afghans take on responsibility for their security, we will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces, and maintain a partnership on behalf of their security so that they can sustain this effort. Afghans are tired of war and long for peace, justice, and economic security. We intend to help them achieve these goals and end this war and the threat of reoccupation by the foreign fighters associated with al Qaeda.
Mr. President, Americans are tired of war and long for economic security.