The Obama administration’s extended ruminations on an Afghan surge aren’t really over how many troops to send in—they’re about how they’ll get those troops out. Obama’s main problem with the initial military plan was that it seemed too open ended, administration sources tell Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal. The White House wants to ensure that a buildup “is a prelude to, rather than a substitute for, Afghanistan taking over the security job.”
Essentially they’d like to imitate the Iraq surge, which, in internal discussions with Iraq, was called the “bridge” to an Iraqi takeover. But Iraq’s leaders wanted the US to leave, while Afghanistan’s want us to stay. There’s also the matter of the election, which left Hamid Karzai looking unreliable and illegitimate. But then, Nouri al-Maliki looked like a liability once, too, Seib points out. That worked out and maybe by focusing on the exit, Obama can make this work as well.