MCCHRYSTAL WANTS MORE TROOPS…. The Washington Post and New York Times report today on a leaked “confidential” report prepared by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The revelations are not altogether unexpected: McChrystal wants more troops and a more aggressive counterinsurgency strategy. Without them, he said, the conflict “will likely result in failure,” and within a year, defeating an Afghan insurgency will “no longer [be] possible.”
In addition to the reports themselves, there’s the story behind the story — confidential reports like these are leaked to the nation’s two largest newspapers for a reason. In this case, military leaders want to put President Obama in a position in which he can’t deny McChrystal’s request without serious political consequences.
Obviously, the substance of the appeal for additional ground forces is what matters most here, and on that front, McChrystal has a high hurdle to clear — how many more troops would be needed to secure a country that’s largely controlled by the Taliban? Is it realistic to think stability and security can be brought to Afghanistan in 12 months? The president appears skeptical, and for good reason.
But there’s also the issue of the White House’s relationship with the brass. On the one hand, the president and his team won’t be rushed or pressured…
The president, one adviser said, is “taking a very deliberate, rational approach, starting at the top” of what he called a “logic chain” that begins with setting objectives, followed by determining a methodology to achieve them. Only when the first two steps are completed, he said, can the third step — a determination of resources — be taken.
“Who’s to say we need more troops?” this official said. “McChrystal is not responsible for assessing how we’re doing against al-Qaeda.”
…and on the other, military leaders are getting impatient.
…Obama’s deliberative pace — he has held only one meeting of his top national security advisers to discuss McChrystal’s report so far — is a source of growing consternation within the military. “Either accept the assessment or correct it, or let’s have a discussion,” one Pentagon official said. “Will you read it and tell us what you think?” Within the military, this official said, “there is a frustration. A significant frustration. A serious frustration.”
As Michael Crowley explained, “It’s an awfully uncomfortable spot for Obama to be in. During the campaign he spoke often — albeit usually in the context of Iraq — about heeding the advice of his commanders on the ground. Now he’s in a position where he may not want to accept it…. That said, what the generals want is not the only consideration here. Their job is to tell Obama how the war can be won. Obama’s job is to decide whether, in the context of America’s myriad priorities at home and abroad, it’s worth the projected cost.”