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U.S. tested 2 Afghan scenarios in war game
In television interviews Sunday, lawmakers outlined broad partisan differences over how many troops are needed in Afghanistan. Republicans have voiced strong support for granting McChrystal's request for more troops, and urged that it be done quickly.
"I'm afraid that with every passing day, we risk the future success of the mission," Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) disagreed, calling the decision-making process "very proper and smart." The administration's lengthy deliberations are "what we need, because we're going to end up living with the results for a good period of time," Webb said on CNN's "State of the Union."
The administration's internal deliberations have emphasized that unless the Afghan government dramatically improves its performance, the Taliban will continue to find support. Administration officials said Obama's decision will consider a much broader range of options than the number of troops. At nearly every meeting in the White House Situation Room, McChrystal has been joined on the video screens at the end of the table by Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, and Anne W. Patterson, his counterpart in Pakistan.
One question being debated is whether more U.S. troops would improve the performance of the Afghan government by providing an important check on corruption and the drug trade, or would they stunt the growth of the Afghan government as U.S. troops and civilians take on more tasks that Afghans might better perform themselves. Another factor is cost. The Pentagon has budgeted about $65 billion to maintain a force of about 68,000 troops, meaning that each additional 1,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan would cost about $1 billion a year.
Administration officials say Obama might settle on a plan but delay announcing it until after a runoff in the Afghan national elections, scheduled for Nov. 7. The president is to begin a 10-day trip to Asia on Nov. 11.
Early this month, McChrystal was told to delay a planned Washington trip until Obama had finished gathering facts on the way ahead. "When you see McChrystal in town," along with Eikenberry and Patterson, a senior administration official said, "you'll know that [Obama] is close to a decision."
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.