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Comment: Obama faces Afghan battle on home front

By Jonathan Mann, CNN
President Obama said he hopes to start transferring U.S. forces out of Afghanistan in July 2011.
President Obama said he hopes to start transferring U.S. forces out of Afghanistan in July 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. commits 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, raising U.S. presence to 100,000
  • General: Obama faces dilemma between winning the war -- and ending it
  • Politician: Obama has inherited a "god awful mess," no good options available
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(CNN) -- Barack Obama was viewed as the anti-war candidate for the White House and then won the Nobel Peace Prize as president. Now he'll triple the size of the American force in Afghanistan that he inherited less than a year ago.

"I do not make this decision lightly," he said. "I make this decision because I am convinced our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

It's not a complete surprise. In his presidential campaign Obama strongly opposed the war in (start italics) Iraq (end italics) precisely because he said it was a dangerous distraction from the fight against terrorists in Afghanistan. He pledged to refocus American efforts there and he's spent months considering how.

This week he announced his decision to send 30,000 more troops, raising the total U.S. presence to 100,000. (There were roughly 32,000 there when he took office).

He's appealing to other nations fighting alongside the U.S. to increase their commitment, beyond the 45,000 troops they have there. And of course, he has to convince his own people too, to support the bigger conflict and the casualties ahead.

In a CBS News poll, conducted November 13-15, 39 percent of Americans percent said they wanted to start withdrawing from Afghanistan. Only 32 percent said they wanted to send reinforcements.

Match the numbers to political affiliation and only 17 percent of Obama's own Democrats favored a bigger deployment.

Video: 'Nation building at home'

Maybe that's why one of Obama's top generals said the president's speech reflected a dilemma.

"I think you heard some tension... understandable, between the desire to win the war," said General David Petraeus Wednesday, "and that is to end the war."

"The president has inherited a god awful mess and has no good options available," said Democratic Congressman Dave Obey Tuesday.

"I hope his policy succeeds, and I know our troops - who have sacrificed so much already - will give everything they've got to make it work, but there are huge obstacles that stand in the way."

Obama has a big fight ahead in Afghanistan -- and a battle at home to win too.

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