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First 100 Days: Troops to Afghanistan

"Barack Obama, whose presidential ambitions were launched by his opposition to one war, moved Tuesday to expand the U.S. deployment in another," USA Today writes. "In his first such action as president, Obama ordered an additional 17,000 combat troops to Afghanistan. His administration cast the move as an interim step to battle the resurgent Taliban, secure Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, increase security for summer elections and stem the decline in a war that the United States now risks losing."

The Washington Post: "The new deployments, to begin in May, will increase the U.S. force in Afghanistan by nearly 50 percent, bringing it to 55,000 by mid-summer, along with 32,000 non-U.S. NATO troops. In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said that 'urgent attention and swift action' were required because 'the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda . . . threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border.'"

The New York Times says the Afghanistan decision "also carries political risk for a president who will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Many experts worry that Afghanistan presents an even more formidable challenge for the United States than Iraq does, particularly with neighboring Pakistan providing sanctuary for insurgents of the Taliban and Al Qaeda."

The New York Times on the spin war over the stimulus: "The division between the two parties over the bill's political repercussions was almost as stark as that over its substance. Leaders of the Democratic Senate and House campaign committees said in interviews that they would try to ensure that Republicans paid a price in 2010 for having opposed the measure. Not a single Republican in the House voted for the bill, and only three Republicans backed it in the Senate. Over the next few days, 30 first-term House Democrats will hold events in their districts highlighting how spending there can protect and create jobs and otherwise benefit those harmed by the downturn."

Here's a story the GOP might jump on today: the lack of staff at various departments implement the stimulus bill. "The once efficient Obama transition has ground to a near standstill after tax problems bedeviled several of his nominees, leaving the top echelon of his government largely unassembled. Three cabinet jobs remain unfilled, only 2 of the 15 cabinet departments have deputy secretaries confirmed, and the vast majority of lower-level political jobs remain vacant."

Lost in some of the White House spin yesterday was the release of its state-by-state job estimates. The Raleigh paper picked up the NC number and questioned the math. "[T]he math behind those estimates is a patchwork of best guesses, historical analogies and academic theories. Several North Carolina economists and finance professors disagreed on whether the spending would create as many jobs as the White House estimates, but all thought the spending would help in the short run."

Our own quick glance at the White House jobs-math shows it appears to have taken the 3.5 million saved/create jobs figure and divided evenly by population by state.

"Several senior Senate Democrats have intensified their push for Howard Dean to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services, but the effort has run into what Dean allies call Democratic 'family politics.'" Lots of fiery quotes in this Hill piece.

The New York Daily News reports, "After months of rumors that [Bronx Borough President Adolfo] Carrión was getting a job with the new administration, the White House will announce Wednesday that President Obama has appointed him director of the new White House Office on Urban Policy, Democratic sources in New York and Washington confirmed Tuesday."