President Barack Obama finally handed down his long-awaited decision on Afghanistan in early December. To the surprise of no one, it reflected a compromise; not the full 40,000 additional troops that General Stanley McChrystal had requested, but a still-substantial 30,000. The compromise included, unfortunately, a timetable for withdrawal that will serve as a useful planning benchmark for al Qaeda and the Taliban.
President Obama hoped to mollify his dovish liberal base by showing that he could stand up to the generals by not giving them everything they wanted and by warning Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai that America's commitment was not open-ended. He also couldn't resist blaming the last administration's focus on Iraq for the mess he inherited in Afghanistan. At the same time, he hoped to satisfy supporters of the war in Afghanistan by agreeing to three-fourths of the troop request.