McChrystal report hits Obama with tough choices in Afghanistan
The general picked by Barack Obama to finish up the war in Afghanistan has presented the U.S. president with some hard choices.
The toughest one: Send more troops to implement a radically different strategy within the next year or risk losing the conflict.
“The campaign in Afghanistan has been historically under-resourced and remains so today,” General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said in a 66-page report to the defense secretary.
“ISAF is operating in a culture of poverty. Consequently ISAF requires more forces,” McChrystal said in a copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post and posted on the Internet.
McChrystal said if the international forces do not reverse “insurgent momentum” soon, they risk finding themselves in a position where “defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”
Another decision: Whether to adopt McChrystal’s proposed new strategy or find an alternative.
The general, an expert in counterinsurgency warfare, says the new strategy must focus on the population.
He calls for faster training of Afghan forces, an effort to improve the performance of Afghan government, a military initiative to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and a focus on putting resources in critical areas where people are threatened.
The Pentagon had no comment on the document. Spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Post had approached the Pentagon about whether any sections of the document might pose a threat to U.S. troops if published.
The Post agreed to redact several sections of the report before posting the document on the Internet and publishing its story, Morrell said.
The report comes at a difficult time for Obama.
His push for healthcare reform has slowed in Congress amid rising concern over the cost, following on the heels of a massive spending bill to lift the economy out of recession.
Seeking more troops in Afghanistan could cost him political capital he needs to get his top domestic priority through Congress, especially with many Americans skeptical about reports of government corruption and recent election irregularities in Afghanistan.
The Democratic-controlled Congress may resist additional spending on an unpopular war and a military buildup heading into congressional elections next year.
And Obama himself is reluctant to send more troops. He described himself in an ABC interview aired Sunday as “a skeptical audience … somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops.”
The White House downplayed the leaking of the report. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president was working with his national security team, going “through some of the strategic assessments that the president thinks need to be evaluated.”
He said the administration had not yet received a request for resources from McChrystal and doesn’t “anticipate it will come for a little bit because there’s an assessment ongoing of where we are right now.”
What do you think? Should Obama commit more troops, bring U.S. forces home or pursue some other alternative?
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama speaks Monday in Troy, New York); Reuters/Nacho Doce (McChrystal at NATO defense ministers meeting in Portugal Sept. 18)