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Ear to the Ground

Team Obama Split on Afghanistan Question

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Posted on Oct 5, 2009
Black Hawk in Afghanistan
Flickr / U.S. Army

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flies near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in 2007.

Last week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal made his case, very directly and publicly, that the window of opportunity for “winning” in Afghanistan won’t be open indefinitely and that troop increases are crucial to that strategy. But is he right? Not everyone in or orbiting the White House these days is completely sold.  —KA

CNN:

Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, said the generals under Obama are playing a dramatically different game than in the previous administration.

“Under President Bush and Vice President Cheney—who kind of had a war mentality—they were very much at the table. I think McChrystal went into Afghanistan assuming he had that same premise,” Rollins said. “I think you have other voices that aren’t quite so pro-war, and I think to a certain extent, I think McChrystal made a big mistake by going out and publicly advocating.”

In March, Obama announced plans to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to provide security for a national election. That move followed what Obama and others call years of inadequate resources in Afghanistan due to the Bush administration’s focus on Iraq.

The Obama strategy was based on a counterinsurgency mission intended both to defeat terrorists based in Afghanistan while winning local support and helping with development.

McChrystal, who replaced Gen. David McKiernan as the top commander in the region in June, recently submitted his assessment of the situation to the Pentagon.

McChrystal is said to want up to 40,000 more troops to carry out the mission in Afghanistan. Obama has yet to respond to McChrystal’s report, prompting opponents to accuse him of indecisiveness.

David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN, said there’s “clearly a sharp division” inside the White House.

“And it’s a rift that could be the sharpest break we’ve seen in years between a president and his commanding general in the field,” Gergen said.

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