Possibly the most surprising thing about O's decision was that he agreed to send this many troops to A'stan.
While I agree that setting an 18-mo timetable seems ill-conceived to me, too ... it looks like his own party is the one beating him up, while Republicans are supporting his decision, with only minimal criticism of the 18-mo deal. Keeping in mind that, being a politician, the 18 mo timeline can also be some pressure on the Afghan govt to start getting its act together if they want US commitment. No doubt, it also was meant to "appease" those in the D party who would be up in arms about the significant troop increase.
It also appears to me that O may have finally made a tough decision. With the input that only would be available to the highest levels of command, he saw that it had to be done.
Some twist of fate when his own party batters him on this decision, but the Rs come to his defense. Maybe the Rs are not just O-haters after all?
What sounded like a young soldier called into the Dennis Prager show today. He recommended the book "The Bear on the Mountain", which was a study of the Soviet fiasco in A'stan. His point was that the goals of previous invaders was always to subjugate A'stan & "acquire" it. Even the T and AQ want control of A'stan for their own goals, without regard for the welfare of the citizenry.
The goal of the US & its allies is a different one, i.e. to allow the Afghanis to build a stable government and improve the standard of living of their people. If that is accomplished, they will not allow the T or AQ to take that away from them. There is no question, that given something to defend, the Afghans will defend it fiercely.
The greatest challenge is how to accomplish this kind of unified effort in a culture that has long been run by tribal chieftains; with many areas isolated from each other due to terrain. It's a hopeful sign that the Mortensen's book is required reading in the military!
It also occurred to me that the Russians would be royally ticked off if the US were to succeed where they failed so monumentally. OTOH, they, and lots of other countries, must undoubtedly recognize that allowing the wackos to control A'stan & use it as a way to get their hands on Pakistan's nukes, would be make them as unsafe as the US.