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October 6th, 2009
08:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #260: Making waffles in Afghanistan

Reporter's Note: President Obama is consulting with a wide variety of folks over what should happen next in Afghanistan. I’m not one of them, but I’ll throw in my advice anyway in my daily letter to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/05/art.obamamcchrystal.gi.jpg caption="Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has made no secret about his belief that the U.S. needs to send more troops now."]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

If I were part of a military family right now, I’d be terrified. Not by what is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan, but by what is happening in Washington.

I’m not talking about Democrats or Republicans, or who is tougher on defense or who is weaker, or anything like that. What I’m talking about is one of DC’s most ignoble traits. When wars get difficult, politicians here have a nasty habit of being like the friends who stand behind you in a schoolyard brawl right up until the opposition appears, and then suddenly they remember their piano lessons and split.

You can hear it all over the streets in the buzz over that question, “What should we do in Afghanistan?” While many pols profess to be just discussing the issue, their comments in the media and elsewhere are taking on that odd waffling tone that always makes me queasy. And it has to be making your decision very, very tough. You promised during the election that you were going to get serious about putting the squeeze on the Taliban and their old running buddies, Al Qaeda. But now Democratic voters overwhelmingly want more troops pulling out, your top military advisors want more troops heading in, the shape and direction of the battle itself has changed, and there you are in the middle trying to figure out a proper course.

I don’t envy you that task. Our situation in Afghanistan is kind of like holding a mad dog by the collar. We can’t hang on forever without a clear plan for calming him down, but we also can’t just let go while he’s growling and snapping. Frankly, as much as I try to help with advice, in this situation I don’t know what to do.

But I do know this. When the DC crowd gets unsettled about a war, starts sending mixed messages, and wringing hands; it often turns into deadly confusion and delays for people on the actual battlefield. And the only thing that can stop that is a clear message from the Commander in Chief. The decision you make on what we do next in Afghanistan is yours alone, and I wish you only the very best in the process; but I also hope that, without rushing the decision, you also reach it sooner rather than later. Because while the pols are talking, our troops are fighting.

Regards,

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Jeannette Kucan

    It's time to bring the troops home already!!! How many more innocent lives are going to be lost? God bless the families that have lost a son or daughter over there. I think it would be a HUGE mistake to send more over there. I don't think we are making a difference in the war against terriorists anyway. They keep growing in numbers. We have lost so many young men and women already and for what?

    October 6, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  2. Lori

    I would be very upset if my son were there in Afghanistan right now.

    October 6, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  3. Enough

    Nobody should be surprised by Obamas lack of leadership, especially when it comes to Military issues. He voted against anything for the troops and now he is our commander in chief. It's too bad people don't take casting their vote seriously, Obamas resume was pretty empty. Rock star image and great speaker do not make a great leader.

    October 6, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  4. Wynoma Hollis

    Dear Mr. President,

    I don't envy your job, not one iota. The decision you make about Afghanistan, I believe will affect us for years to come. No matter what decision you make, no one knows the future but God Himself. Therefore, I pray that you with God's help, make the best decision possible. I'm praying for you.

    May God be with you,

    Wynoma Hollis

    October 6, 2009 at 10:17 am |
  5. Annie Kate

    Tom

    Excellent advice!! Government does tend to move too slowly in cases like this and the result is usually more soldiers killed in action – they don't deserve that. If we are going to play ball, we need to get to it; if not, it's time to get off the court. I hope Obama takes your advice on this one and makes a decision sooner rather than later. Thanks for telling it like it is!!

    October 6, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  6. Jhel Villaruel

    The best decision President Obama could do is simple...pull out all troops and send back home and leave these countries which are not worthy of the United States assistance after all. Despite of the US effort to bring peace in this region, so many are trying to ride on and make their own profit out of it..on th US expense!

    God Bless America!

    October 6, 2009 at 9:11 am |