It took Abraham Lincoln three years to find a general who could win the war he was fighting. President Obama hopes he won't have to wait that long. On Monday he replaced Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, with Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, an expert in counterinsurgency warfare who formerly headed the Joint Special Operations Command.

Mr. Obama campaigned on drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq so the military could go after a resurgent Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. He called for 17,000 more combat troops and declared the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region a single theater of war. Having enlisted a general willing to fight on both sides of that border, Mr. Obama has hitched the fate of his presidency to the war's outcome: From here on, he owns Afghanistan.

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The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan both pledged to cooperate more closely with the new U.S. strategy during talks with administration last week. But it may take a while before anyone sees the results of the new approach, not least because any U.S. military presence inside Pakistan will surely be kept quiet. As it is now, neither country even acknowledges the Predator missile strikes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets on the Pakistan side of the border. As head of Special Forces, Gen. McChrystal has already directed commando raids on Pakistani territory. But the missions were classified and future strikes by ground troops are likely to remain so. No one wants to risk embarrassing the Pakistani military or stir up civilian resistance by offending nationalistic pride.

Dont forget, even if the new strategy works, it may take years before the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are defeated, or at least worn down enough to no longer pose a threat. President Obama must dearly wish he can show some progress by the end of his first term -- because if he can't, he might not get another.

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