Tales from the Trail

What rift? Eikenberry, McChrystal take vows of unity

They smiled at each other and publicly said “I do.”

USAGeneral Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, widely reported to have had a falling-out over sending  30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, on Tuesday pledged their support for President Barack Obama’s strategy and for each other.

The congressional hearing was on the Afghan war, but it had moments that almost seemed borrowed from a wedding ceremony.

“Do you support the president’s plan (for Afghanistan) in each of its elements?” asked Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.

“I do, Mr. Chairman,” responded Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Levin turned to General McChrystal, the U.S. battlefield commander. “General, do you fully agree with the July 2011 date which the president directed as the start of reduction of some U.S. forces?”

Obama: Not worrying about perceptions on Afghanistan

OBAMA/INTERVIEWAs President Barack Obama nears a decision on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, some experts say he should consider the signal his decision will send about his broader commitment to the war, which has grown increasingly unpopular at home.

The White House has been frustrated that its internal deliberations on the Afghanistan strategy have leaked into public view, something that Obama acknowledged on Monday in an interview with Reuters.

But will perceptions of the deliberations affect the decision itself?

In the view of some, Obama might risk sending a signal of a weakening commitment in Afghanistan were he to approve anything short of the 40,000 troop increase requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

White House hits back at Cheney “dithering” comment

AFGHANISTAN-CHENEY/The White House is firing back at former Vice President Dick Cheney who accused President Barack Obama of “dithering” and being “afraid to make a decision” on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

“I think it’s a curious comment,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters at his midday briefing.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Vice President was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan,” Gibbs added.

Civil air surrounds Afghan war strategy debate at White House

To hear spokesman Robert Gibbs describe it, President Barack Obama’s White House is a mighty civil place to work.

Even when formulating Afghan war strategy, for instance, the president, his generals and his advisers do not argue. Or apparently even forcefully state their views.

This despite their known differences in position, with Afghan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal seeking up to 40,000 more troops and Vice President Joe Biden wanting to maintain current troop levels while intensifying attacks on al Qaeda.

How strong is U.S. will for Afghan fight?

When George W. Bush was president, Democrats and other critics repeatedly said the United States was fighting the wrong war — it was not Iraq that should have been the center of U.S. military attention, but Afghanistan.

The thinking then was that Afghanistan was where Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda crew had planned the Sept. 11 attacks under the protection of the Taliban and they were the ones to pursue and attack. AFGHANISTAN/

Now that Barack Obama is president, he is trying to wind down the war in Iraq and send more troops to Afghanistan. But it’s been eight years since the Sept. 11 attacks and more than six years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and Americans are war-weary.

How long will U.S. forces be in Afghanistan? It’s a mystery…

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says it’s no secret how long U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan.

“In the intelligence business, we always used to categorize information … in two ways: secrets and mysteries,” the former CIA boss told a briefing Thursday.

GATES/“The secrets were things that were ultimately knowable,” Gates said. “The mysteries were those where there were too many variables to predict.”