Obama's War

Obama's War

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McChrystal Troop Request to Go to Pentagon by End of Week

The troop request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, shown here in Afghanistan, won't go to the White House immediately, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The troop request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, shown here in Afghanistan, won't go to the White House immediately, a Pentagon spokesman said. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
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By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request for more troops and other resources to fund the expanded counterinsurgency campaign he has proposed in Afghanistan will arrive at the Defense Department by the end of this week but will not be immediately turned over to the White House, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

"It is simply premature to consider additional resources until General McChrystal's assessment has been fully reviewed and discussed by the president and his team," spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

President Obama's national security team is still in the preliminary stages of considering the Aug. 30 assessment by McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that the war will probably be lost unless more troops are sent there within the next year.

Senior administration officials have said that McChrystal's report is only one "input" the White House is considering in a more wide-ranging review of strategy, including a possible shift from counterinsurgency in Afghanistan toward stepped-up attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan and elsewhere.

"There are many other considerations that we have to take into account," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" on Monday. "There are other assessments from very expert military analysts who have worked in counterinsurgencies that are the exact opposite" of McChrystal's.

Asked about the experts Clinton was referring to, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said she was making the "broader point" that an ongoing assessment will "involve a range of views -- military, civilian and outsiders" and a "Red Team" to probe for weaknesses in official views.

Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, is preparing a separate assessment of Afghanistan's political future and the controversy surrounding the recent presidential election there. Although President Hamid Karzai has said he won, based on a tally by the country's electoral commission, international monitors are investigating allegations of widespread fraud.

Some administration officials have questioned whether the absence of a legitimate government in Afghanistan should lead to a full-scale reconsideration of the plan for major military and development efforts that Obama outlined in March.

Obama's determination not to be rushed in deciding the way forward has led to frustration within the military, where many argue that McChrystal's request -- and trying to reverse the momentum gained by the Taliban this year -- is necessary and urgent.

McChrystal, in an interview published on the New York Times Web site Wednesday, rejected reports of a rift between the military and administration civilians on the subject. Asked about rumors that he was considering resigning, which the Times said were being "whispered around the Pentagon," he said, "I have not considered resigning at all."

Although he warned against taking too long, McChrystal said that "a policy debate is warranted. We should not have any ambiguities, as a nation or a coalition."

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday that he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, had endorsed "General McChrystal's assessment" of the situation in Afghanistan. Petraeus spoke at a counterinsurgency conference at the National Press Club.

Morrell, in a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon, said administration discussions on Afghanistan were awaiting the return of Obama and other senior officials from the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York and the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh this week. "Once he gets back to town," Morrell said of the president, "the discussions will resume in earnest . . . but without rushing it."

McChrystal compiled his report in two parts: the assessment sent to Washington late last month and the separate request for additional resources that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested he withhold until he was asked for it.

Morrell said Gates had not yet made up his mind whether he agreed that more troops should be deployed in addition to the 21,000 Obama has approved. Total U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is scheduled to reach 68,000 by the end of the year.

Asked why it made sense for McChrystal to send a resource request based on a strategy that is still under review, Morrell said that any "adjustments" in the strategy may require "adjustments made in terms of what's required to achieve the mission." For the moment, he said, McChrystal "is operating under the assumption that his job is to defeat al-Qaeda and use [counterinsurgency] to do it."

Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.


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