Obama seems determined to try to prove he's a real player in the so-called "war on terror" by focusing on Afghanistan, but things are not going well there. As Anne Applebaum pointed out before the Aug. 20 presidential election, the important thing was that the result should appear legitimate. But that's not happening. Turnout was low, hardly any women voted, counting is going slowly, and there are credible allegations of election fraud by both the major candidates -- about 700 complaints an independent international monitoring body considers worthy of serious investigation. So far Karzai hasn't gotten the 50% he'll need to avoid a runoff. The government is still corrupt, no matter who wins.
Meanwhile Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, is turning in his report on strategy today, and while it hasn't been made public, the leaks so far suggest he'll call for a radical new strategy and (eventually) more U.S. troops. It's said he'll shift the emphasis from forays into Taliban strongholds to guarding cities and building up the Afghan government -- but it will be at least three years before Afghan security forces can handle the situation themselves. Meanwhile 51% of Americans and 70% of Democrats think the war isn't worth fighting. It's a potentially huge problem for Obama.
As I've written before, if the goal is to eliminate al-Qaida capabilities in Afghanistan, that's already done; al-Qaida is in Pakistan. So we should end military activities in Afghanistan and focus on an al-Qaida that had been notably weakened but may be stronger now in reaction to hyperactive US activity in the region. But Obama seems determined to prove he's tough in a country that is probably more challenging for outside forces than Iraq.