View Full Version : Obama: Afghan troops decision can wait

09-21-2009, 02:43 PM
Obama: Afghan troops decision can wait

By Anne Gearan - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Sep 20, 2009 15:47:29 EDT

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he hasn't asked his top commander in Afghanistan to sit on an expected request for U.S. reinforcements in a backsliding war, but he gave no deadline for making a decision about whether to send more Americans into harm's way.

Obama said in a series of television interviews broadcast Sunday that he will not allow politics to govern his decision. He left little doubt he is re-evaluating whether the renewed focus on hunting al-Qaida that he announced just months ago has become blurred and whether more forces will do any good.

"The first question is, 'Are we doing the right thing?'" Obama said. "Are we pursuing the right strategy?"

The war has taken on a highly partisan edge. Senate Republicans are demanding an influx of forces to turn around a war that soon will enter its ninth year, while members of Obama's own party are trying to put on the brakes.

"No, no, no, no," Obama responded when asked whether he or aides had directed Gen. Stanley McChrystal to temporarily withhold a request for additional U.S. forces and other resources.

"The only thing I've said to my folks is, 'A, I want an unvarnished assessment, but, B, I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question,'" Obama said. "Because there is a natural inclination to say, 'If I get more, then I can do more.'"

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last week he expected McChrystal's request for additional forces and other resources "in the very near future."

Other military officials had said the request would go to McChrystal's boss, Gen. David Petraeus, and up the chain of command in a matter of weeks. The White House discounted that timeline, but has remained vague about how long it would take to receive the report and act on it.

Media reports Friday and Saturday said McChrystal has finished it but was told to pocket it, partly because of the charged politics surrounding the decision. McChrystal's senior spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the report is not complete.

"The resource request is being finalized and will be sent forward to the chain of command at some point in the near future," Smith said from Afghanistan.

McChrystal found security worse than he expected when he took command this summer to lead what Obama described as a narrowed, intensive campaign to uproot al-Qaida and prevent the terrorist group from again using Afghanistan as a safe haven.

In the interviews taped Friday at the White House, Obama mentioned concerns about the "mission creep" that befell former President George W. Bush's attempt to build and prop up a viable democratic government in a country unaccustomed to central rule and sensitive to foreign meddling.

Obama said he's asking this question now of the military regarding his plan: "How does this advance America's national security interests? How does it make sure that al-Qaida and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe?"

"If supporting the Afghan national government and building capacity for their army and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move forward," the president continued. "But if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration."

Obama has ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, increasing the number of U.S. forces there to a record 68,000, and watched as Marines pushed deep into Taliban-controlled districts ahead of Afghanistan's national elections in August.

The disappointing outcome of the voting — no definitive winner weeks later and mounting allegations that the incumbent President Hamid Karzai rigged the election — is coloring both Obama's view of the conflict and the partisan debate.

Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has told Obama he wants no new troops request at least until the United States makes a bolder effort to expand and train Afghanistan's own armed forces.

On Sunday, Levin addressed the give-and-take over McChrystal's report.

"I think what's going on here is that there is a number of questions which are being asked to Gen. McChrystal about some of the assumptions which have been previously made in the strategy, including that there would be an election which would be a stabilizing influence instead of a destabilizing influence," said Levin, D-Mich.

The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Obama should follow the military's advice. McConnell said Petraeus "did a great job with the surge in Iraq. I think he knows what he's doing. Gen. McChrystal is a part of that. We have a lot of confidence in those two generals. I think the president does as well."

Earlier this month, McChrystal offered this analogy suggesting he's waiting for Obama to make up his mind about a deeper involvement.

"My position here is a little bit like a mechanic. We've got a situation with a vehicle and I've been asked to look at it and tell the owner what the situation is and what it will cost to make the vehicle run correctly and I will provide that," he said.

"Now I understand that the vehicle owner then has to make a decision on what the car is worth, how much longer he intends to drive it," he added. "Whether he wants it to look good or just run."

Obama spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," and CBS' "Face the Nation." Levin and McConnell were on CNN.


09-21-2009, 03:55 PM
A prime example of how politics interferes with military operations time and time again...

09-21-2009, 04:56 PM
I hope that MR. Brown hasnt advised Mr. Obama...... Nothing good will come of this.

09-21-2009, 05:02 PM
Well Charlie looks like they are reading from the same stratagy guide

09-21-2009, 05:06 PM
We're all doooomed.

09-21-2009, 05:12 PM
shit is going to hit the fan sooner or later and it is coming at the fan pretty fast.

09-21-2009, 06:41 PM
Dear President Obama, please get rid of the economic and health cares bills and get off of your ass and help our troops.
Signed, The American people

09-21-2009, 07:00 PM
The reason for the delay is because of allegations of election fraud and to review the Afghan strategy - summing up what he said on CNN. He doesn't want to send more troops there until he's sure that their strategy is an effective one. It would also be troublesome to send more troops there if the Afghan government is not viewed as a legitimate one.

09-21-2009, 07:15 PM
And what personal experience of military service does Mr. Obama have? Of his advisors what ratio of Vet to Civ is there? Has he renewed the lapsed McNammara subscription to the Rand corp statistics? Or is he just not listening to his commanders in the field. Same and more goes to Brown.

Yes commanders always want more kit and boot on the ground. Yes commander may provide gloomy reports to support requests.

Fight and insurgency and nation build versus keep treading water and repeating errors.

09-21-2009, 08:54 PM
The reason for the delay is because of allegations of election fraud and to review the Afghan strategy - summing up what he said on CNN. He doesn't want to send more troops there until he's sure that their strategy is an effective one. It would also be troublesome to send more troops there if the Afghan government is not viewed as a legitimate one.

So he knows more then the person he put in charge to turn Afghanistan around? The election has nothing to do with the troop request, this is the request that was pressured from the top,( not saying the President ) not to be released before the election. When he appointed Gen McChrystel to come up with a new strategy, he said the Gen. was an expert in COIN operations and he would listen to him. Politics are now coming in to play and we (soldiers) know what happens when that occurs. If you put someone in charge you let them do the job, not make excuses why you won't listen to him. And while he waits and makes sure the strategy that Gen McChrystel , the expert he put there, plays out how many more men/women are going to die because the extra troops are not there to train the Afghans to take a larger role ,which is the heart of any COIN strategy . This is politics at it's worse. I would understand if Pres. Obama had not said the Gen. was the person to lead this campaign because of his expertize in COIN operations but he did. Now he is going back on his word to both the General and the troops and it sucks. I really had high hopes for this President to focus the attention on Afghanistan but anyone can see this is not happening, what a disappointment . He's backpedaling more then an NFL cornerback.

As one of our members has stated -War makes Presidents look bad. Health care makes Presidents look as though they care. Dead soldiers, a statistic along with all the other statistics, means nothing.
Cynical I know, but Ive lost mates, some of you guys have lost mates. Politicians like to play with bright shiny things, and when they tarnish they look for others. Whats left behind are broken hearts and lost futures.

Here's a direct quote from the report- unless the U.S. and its allies gain the initiative and reverse the momentum of the militants within the next year the U.S. “risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

PS see no personal attacks just a debate.

09-22-2009, 01:11 PM
I don’t exactly agree with how Obama is handling this right now I was just posting the other side, his stated reason for the delay. I can understand taking a week or two to go over things with your advisors and military commanders, however this does concern me:

McChrystal’s assessment, in the view of two senior administration officials, is just “one input” in the White House’s decision-making process. … When Obama announced his strategy in March, there were few specifics fleshing out his broad goals, and the military was left to interpret how to implement them. As they struggle over how to adjust to changing reality on the ground, some in the administration have begun to fault McChrystal for taking the policy beyond where Obama intended, with no easy exit. But 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.”

Why the election matters


In November 1986, at the meeting of the Soviet Politburo that took the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev captured the Soviet Union's Afghan dilemma all too bluntly: "We have lost the battle for the Afghan people." If, in 2009, we opt to side with the fraudsters rather than the voters, we too will lose the battle for the Afghan people.

Granted the Russians were entirely reckless from the start of the war and didn't seem to put the civilians as a high priority. Still, it does speak to how important the civilians are if we really want to build that country.

Now the argument to that is no matter what the political implications we need to protect our troops and stick to our primary objective, which I agree with. But, judging by Obama's comments so far, if they cannot somehow find a resolution to this supposed election fraud and legitimize that government then we could possibly see a very drastic change to our grand strategy in Afghanistan. That’s my guess when digging a little deeper into this delay.

09-22-2009, 02:31 PM
Ok I'm sorry I get very defensive about our soldiers, I can also agree with a one or two week delay but anything longer then that there are risks involved. It takes a lot to get troops to the theater of operations , need to be trained up, by that I mean the extra manpower that's put into the unit(backfill) to make it full strength has not trained with them and that takes time.
The reason I don't feel the election should be the reason for not putting more troops on the ground is it's a new thing to the Afghans to have "Free elections" quoted because of the fraud involved, not alleged but real fraud . But one thing you need to realize about Afghanistan is the majority of the populace except for the cities has no idea how the government is supposed to run and has not seen any governmental help at all so they do not know what their missing. At least if more troops(not just combat, but civil affairs and the like) they would have more resources then they have now and might just see that we are trying to help them. Here is a perfect example of troops helping the villagers first then bringing in the other assets http://www.comfec-cefcom.forces.gc.ca/pa-ap/fs-ev/2009/09/18-eng.asp , but you need the troops first before anything else can happen. They provide the security needed for CIMIC/PRT teams to work, and in turn the village prospers

09-22-2009, 04:03 PM
More troops will help in securing civilians and help in the fight against the Taliban/AQ. Where the problem comes in at is trying to convince the Afghan population to enlist in security forces and put their lives on the line for a government that they feel is fraudulent and ineffective. So, our #1 priority could essentially change to establishing a legitimate government there first and foremost. Should more troops be sent there while we work that out, I believe so, unless like I hinted at earlier our entire strategy and objectives for Afghanistan changes which leads me to believe that Obama must be considering doing just that.

Here’s an interesting post on this subject, comparing Afghanistan to Colombia


If there is not a government worth fighting for, people will not fight. It is a basic fact of counterinsurgency and of life. The corrupted electoral process in Afghanistan has, as has been noted, one clear victor: the Taliban. Those who run such systems do their country a deep disservice for the unforgivable goal of perpetrating themselves in power.

Colombia survived because of timely and well-directed US aid in addition to a radical restructuring of the Colombian armed forces. The senior officer corps at the time, many with ties to violent and illegal paramilitary groups, were swept aside and a new group of radical thinking officers emerged. What was important about that effort, in addition to the results, is that it was led from within the Colombian military and was an internal process which the United States had little to do with.

I think what we can definitely agree on is that Obama certainly needs to be taking more steps to come to a decision, like you said anything more than a couple of weeks is not acceptable.

09-22-2009, 09:06 PM
Since fraud is there we could run the risk and with support of more troops have another election. With more oversight from the international communty, with the US as the main security force. Let's face it....more troops are needed period. It is VITAL that more combat support and combat arms soldiers get over there and help out. Obama does need to approach with caution but he needs to realise that ISAF needs reenforcements.

09-22-2009, 11:01 PM
I hope no one is surprised by this. After all, we are talking about a man who as a legislator voted 'present' more often than not. He doesn't want to be in Afghanistan at all, does not see it as important compared to his domestic agenda, and is only concerned with how he can weasel his way out of his obligations without taking any blame for doing so. What McChrystal wants or needs is irrelevant to the discussion for the Prez. He doesn't care.

09-22-2009, 11:29 PM
He doesn't want to be in Afghanistan at all, does not see it as important compared to his domestic agenda, and is only concerned with how he can weasel his way out of his obligations without taking any blame for doing so. What McChrystal wants or needs is irrelevant to the discussion for the Prez. He doesn't care.

I dont think he would have sent more troops there and improved our strategy if he didn't care.

09-23-2009, 12:36 AM
There is a difference between caring about Afghanistan and wanting to look like you care.

09-23-2009, 10:59 AM

Said by the President on Sunday the 20th of September during his whirlwind tour of the talking head shows:

"The only thing I've said to my folks is, 'A, I want an unvarnished assessment, but, B, I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question,'" Obama said. "Because there is a natural inclination to say, 'If I get more, then I can do more.'" [emphasis mine]

Pay attention to the bolded part. He would have you think that he was being sober and patient, not wanting to throw resources at a problem before there was a strategy in place. That he really cares about this situation.

Then read McChrystal's report, submitted August 30. (http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdf?sid=ST2009092003140 )

Apparently McChrystal is under the impression that there already was a strategy for what to do in Afghanistan, with Obama on board, back in March. Is there a strategy question? When your top general in your war zone as of three weeks ago believes he is on the same page as his commander in chief, while his commander in chief insists that the reason why he has sat on the report and done nothing is because he wants a strategy, there is a contradiction here. Something about what Obama says is not true.

I submit that the reason for the contradiction is that Obama does not particularly care about Afghanistan. His concern lies only in how to best extricate himself from that place while saving face (his own, not America's) and keeping it Bush's War instead of one that he jointly 'owns' in the eyes of the public. If he makes a major commitment on the order of what the general he chose is recommending, it stops being Bush's War and starts being one he is now responsible for. This is anathema to him and his political base of support.

The commitment of troops and the change of strategy that we have seen so far are, in fact, token offerings. He must walk a tightrope between his true wishes of abandoning Afghanistan (leaving it as another of his predecessor's messes) and what he must do politically to not appear to be the craven milksop that he really is.