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Afghanistan Could Prove Tricky for Democrats

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In a Rose Garden news conference today, President Bush said he hopes to be able to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan by the end of this year. While there’s nowhere near a guarantee that Iraq will be stable enough for this kind of redeployment, the move would likely cause some tension amongst Democrats running this November.

If troops start leaving Iraq (which the Democrats want) and start bolstering forces in Afghanistan (a military effort most Democrats still support), does that dilute the Democratic anti-war message? Democrats have rightly criticized our planning and commitment in Afghanistan. Could they conceivably oppose a refocusing of our energies on that troubled country? And if they did oppose an Afghanistan “surge” would they have the backing of most Americans?

One of the key problems with the Democratic position on Iraq is that it’s been too tied up in opposition to and anger over the initial invasion. It is the “bad” war because it was a bad idea (and, yes, it was a bad idea). As for Afghanistan, everyone but the extreme left supported the rationale for invading that nation, so it is a “good” war because it was a good idea. Rather than looking at the situation as it exists today, too many Democrats view Iraq as irredeemable because of the way the conflict started.

But if we are wasting time and money in Iraq aren’t we also wasting time and money in Afghanistan? After all, we’ll have been there for seven years this Fall. If we haven’t stabilized the country by now, what chance do we really have? I’d argue we still have a chance but I’m not sure how those who view Iraq as hopeless can view Afghanistan any differently.

If President Bush does indeed return much-need focus on Afghanistan, Democratic reactions will be very telling. Voters should pay careful attention.