McChrystal report hits Obama with tough choices in Afghanistan

September 21, 2009

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.

USA“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 PORTUGAL/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?

For more Reuters political news, click here.

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)


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Afghanistan is a waste of resources, human & treasure. What’t the point, what is to gain? Unless there’s a long term strategy, why stay. What doesn’t make sense is to committ resources for a few years, eliminate thousands of Taliban militants and terrorists, pull out and have them return. The policy should be to keep them out of our country and our alliances countries, eg. Israel. Train their people to police themselves, strenghten NATO and use mercenaries. We have the best and finest military in the world, best technology, best intellects, thinktanks, and we can’t form a winning strategy to defeat and suppress a few thousand militants bend on what cause exactly…the down fall of the US. I don’t think so. Look at what we’ll survived as a nation, and tell me the Taliban can be successful. It’s shameful we can’t do better, and a disservice to our military men and women, and the American people. Politics as usual will bring this nation down.

Posted by Duke Carrington | Report as abusive

Getting out of wars is like getting out of quicksand. Throwing more troops in is like increasing bets at the black jack table when the cards are running against you. I think we should pull back, neutralize the borders, and tell them to decide their own destiny. We need to be building our own country and paying our bills. Our military leaders should not be determining what we should do. They have had all this time to get things together and they have not been able to do it.

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

How about if America minds its own business and quits meddling in other countries’ affairs? The United States needs to give up manifest destiny and imagining itself the head of the New World Order. America has never fought a defensive war; all its wars have been wars of aggression. The CIA sets up a dictator it likes, and then when the dictator proves unworthy they take him out, usually with collateral damage. The U.S. supported Castro, Noriega, Marcos, Saddam Hussein, and Bin Laden. On 9/11 the bully on the playground (America) received a black eye from the little runt (unknown terrorists). Now the bully is picking fights with all the kids who don’t like him. What’s going to happen when all the kids gang up?

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

We missed the chance to get Bin Laden in 2001 when George W. Airhead decided that Iraq was more important. Our troops had Bin Laden cornered in the NE corner of Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Then we withdrew on the orders of “W” (chief airhead in charge).

Since that time, the Taliban have re-taken almost complete control of Afghanistan. Now we want to play “catch-up” and rest control out of their hands and re-build Afghanistan into a nation of our liking.

We had our chance and we blew it. No amount of troop build up is going to achieve that goal. We don’t need to occupy Afghanistan to make America safe from our enemies. On the contrary; Afghanistan has the potential of bankrupting our country as Iraq is presently doing. We don’t need two Viet Nams. The first Viet Nam tore the U.S. apart politically, emotionally, and killed scores of thousands of teen aged American soldiers. And, since we are withdrawing from Iraq you can expect another resurgence of violence that may lead to civil war there.

Are our leaders that nuts to think that we can “win” in Afghanistan. What is there to “win”? We can only lose. And, before we lose, let’s choose discretion instead of valor. That will be the wiser choice.

Posted by AlteredStates | Report as abusive

You can be sure this delay will put more of our troops in harms way! UGH.

Posted by Anna Langella | Report as abusive

It’s a tough tough call and there’s no way to avoid politics with it. The political move would be to stick with his campaign position of fighting the good war in Afghanistan and triangulate against the liberals.

Only thing is, we keep going back to the well and the well is empty, the option to probably failure is hardly certain success, and the Karzais aren’t legitimate.

Here’s a snarky and inconclusive run-down on the issue.  /30/afghanistan-in-60-seconds/

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive