Last night, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward served up a bombshell, reporting that the top general in Afghanistan, Stanley A. McChrystal, warned
the White House in an urgent, confidential memo to expect "mission failure" within twelve months unless troop levels were increased. On the Sunday shows, before the story broke, President Obama was cool to the idea of more troops. Does this indicate a rift between the White
House and military? Is McChrystal's request for a troop surge good strategy? What does this means for the Afghan War? Bloggers weighed in.
- An Afghan Surge? Kevin Drum doubted that a move similar to the Iraq surge would work. "I gotta ask: considering the unrelentingly grim assessment in the rest of his report, is it really likely that a few more troops and a change in emphasis toward COIN and away from counterterrorism will bear results within 12 months?" Drum argued that the Iraq surge was successful because it specifically targeted Baghdad, a strategy hard to duplicate in decentralized Afghanistan. "It's the rest of the country that needs more troops, and it's hard to think of any single place they could be concentrated enough to have a real impact," he wrote. "But if [McChrystal] can propose some key operation or area where additional troops would represent a doubling or tripling of capacity and success might have an outsize effect on the entire conflict, then it might be worth trying."
- 'McChrystal's Power Play' Siun O'Connell described McChrystal's request as a "power play" to control Afghan strategy. "It's clearly time for a complete re-evaluation of just why we are there at all – and what, if anything might be done right. While the generals will of course continue to push for control, our civilian leadership must insist on something more than a full employment program for the four stars," she wrote, noting that some troop increases have already taken place. "And while McChrystal’s team is issuing these not-so-veiled threats, they are also finding ways to slip more forces into the country without a completed policy review and Commander in Chief decision."
- Make No Mistake, Obama is in Charge Spencer Ackerman cited Obama's statements on Meet the Press that there would be no troop increases until he was satisfied with military strategy. "It's unfair to ask the military to shoot the moon without giving it a super moon-shooting rocket," Ackerman wrote. "But it's more unfair to ask the country -- and, for that matter, to ask the military -- to keep sending more and more resources into a war without a clear sense of how that war, uniquely, advances American interests. (That is to say it's not enough to conclude that a war advances American interests. The conclusion has to be there is no meaningful choice but war in order to advance those interests.")
- White House and Military at are Odds Juan Cole suggested a "serious and growing rift," as the two groups pursue different agendas. "On the Sunday talk shows, Obama seemed somewhat hostile to the idea of sending more troops, and certainly before the strategic goals were spelled out," he wrote. "Apparently military officers are just furious with the president for not making a decision by now one way or another."
- No They're Not Ackerman disagreed with accusations of a rift. "I can't conclude from my reporting that McChrystal is engaged in any power play. Nor is Petraeus engaged in any such power play. The military leadership is getting what it has said for years it wanted: a thorough and deliberative process from the political leadership to determine what the national strategy ought to be. Not a rubber stamp and not knee-jerk rejectionism. It's all on Obama's shoulders." Ackerman cited sources who said there would be no troop increases "until Obama has determined the strategy advances that core anti-al-Qaeda interest."
- Will This Hurt International Support? Renard Sexton warned that America's agenda of putting its own security first and international human rights second could jeopardize crucial international support. "This week could see a final announcement regarding the international strategy conference on Afghanistan, which the US and UN have reportedly agreed to holding along with France, Germany and the UK," he wrote. "In summary, instability marks not just the Afghan security and political scene, but international support as well. Many national governments and their publics, including major players like the US, Germany and the UK, are questioning the national interest of continued expenditure and loss of life in the country, particularly as opposition pressure mounts."