After months of deliberation, U.S. President Barack Obama has announced his plans for Afghanistan. As anticipated, Mr. Obama decided to send an additional 30,000 troops to the embattled country over the new few months. And as expected, that decision has not satisfied anyone. His supporters want U.S. forces out of Afghanistan; his critics condemn his deadline for withdrawal of those forces, arguing it will only embolden America’s enemies. Both criticisms are wrong, but they underscore the precariousness of Mr. Obama’s position: This announcement is only the beginning of a long and arduous process, one in which success will in many ways depend on the support the president gets from his own citizens.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama called the Afghan conflict “a war of necessity,” a sharp contrast to Iraq, which he termed “a war of choice.” Yet, as the United States drew down forces in Iraq and strengthened its commitment to Afghanistan, it was not clear what U.S. strategy was: What threat did Afghanistan pose to the U.S., how could it be countered, and how would the world know when the war was won — or lost?

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