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Americans deserve answers about Afghanistan from President Obama

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But they heard the president tell Chinese students in Shanghai last week that "the greatest threat to the United States' security are the terrorist networks like al-Qaeda." And they are asking, "If that's so, why is Obama choosing Afghanistan as the place to declare America all-in?" Or to, as the president put it, "finish the job"?

They know that al-Qaeda is an international terrorist organization out to destroy the United States. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the bombing of the World Trade Center, and the bombings of American embassies and the USS Cole all speak to that. They also know that al-Qaeda is waging global jihad, launching plots in Europe.

They want to know whether denying al-Qaeda a base in Afghanistan will secure America against attacks. That is what Obama, after weeks of study, seems to think. But what happens if, in the face of an U.S. escalation in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda moves its terrorist network to Pakistan or beyond? Will U.S. forces follow?

Washington's intelligentsia may know the answer. The rest of the country should know, too. Obama is accountable to the men and women who hired him, not to his war council, Washington think tanks or editorial pages.

And that gets us to a fear that is growing among some of the president's most ardent supporters: that Barack Obama, the fresh, think-outside-the-box leader brimming with energy and new ideas, has entered the White House and gone native.

Suspicion is spreading that Obama has lost some of the character that made him special; that he has taken on the ways of this town, thinking in conventional terms dictated by a brain trust and self-serving, entrenched Washington interests that make this city go 'round.

That development, if true, would be as disastrous to the Obama presidency as a military miscalculation.

kingc@washpost.com


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