Monday, August 31, 2009

Pentagon worried about Obama's commitment to Afghanistan

McClatchy's, here

" ... With tough battles ahead on health care, the budget and other issues, Vice President Joe Biden and other officials are increasingly anxious about how the American public would respond to sending additional troops.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the media, said Biden has argued that without sustained support from the American people, the U.S. can't make the long-term commitment that would be needed to stabilize Afghanistan and dismantle al Qaida. Biden's office declined to comment.

"I think they (the Obama administration) thought this would be more popular and easier," a senior Pentagon official said. "We are not getting a Bush-like commitment to this war."

Monday's assessment initially was to include troop recommendations, but political concerns prompted White House and Pentagon officials to agree that those recommendations would come later, advisers to McChrystal said. Although the White House took a hands-off approach toward Afghanistan earlier this summer, Pentagon officials said they're now getting more questions about how many troops might be needed and for how long.

Some White House officials said the administration feels it was pressured to send the additional 17,500 combat troops and 4,000 trainers earlier this year, before the administration was comfortable with its plan for Afghanistan, because of the country's election in August.

Obama now feels that McChrystal and his superior, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the Central Command, are pressuring him to commit still more troops to Afghanistan, a senior military official said. The official said that retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, told McChrystal last month not to ask for more troops, but that McChrystal went ahead anyway and indicated in interviews that he may need more.

McChrystal's new assessment is the fifth one ordered since Obama's inauguration. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that no details of the assessment would be released. Other officials called it a "political hot potato." Advisers to McChrystal, who spoke to McClatchy on the condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity, said the document is just over 10 pages and broadly spells out McChrystal's assessment of conditions on the ground: "It says that this could get much worse unless we invest ourselves in this now," one adviser said. "Then it says, 'This is what we propose to do.'"


Anonymous said...

I, for one, am worried about Obama's commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Anonymous said...

M K Bhadrakumar has a great article on the Afghan elections and how it's all turning sour over at Asia Times

What complicated the US plan was that the "wizard" fared far better than Washington estimated in the non-Pashtun regions where Abdullah was thought to have an "edge" by virtue of being half-Tajik. Karzai literally caught Washington unawares by getting Rashid Dostum to return from Turkey in the nick of time to garner his 10% Uzbek vote bank for Karzai, which proved decisive. (Dostum has since returned to Turkey so that the US cannot make an issue of his presence to vilify Karzai.)

Meanwhile looks like George Will has read the tea leaves and decided it's time to get out. (If the US military has lost Iraq war cheerleader and defender George Will chances are they've lost the argument)

Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.' "