Yesterday, CBS reported that Barack Obama had decided to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, adopting Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Plan B. Earlier, McClatchy reported that Obama had decided on sending 34,000 troops, splitting the difference between Plans B and C. Now CBS and Bloomberg both report that Obama hasn’t made any decision yet, while ABC says that Obama has expanded his options to Plans A, B, C, D, and E:
Senior administration officials tell ABC News that President Obama at his war council meeting tomorrow will assess five different specific strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the recommendations put forward by Gen. Stanley McChrystal being one of those five strategies.
At his meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday, October 30, President Obama asked Pentagon officials to assess in detail the four other strategy options — missions, troop requirements, cost. All five options increase the levels of US troops in Afghanistan. The president has not yet been presented with those four new assessments.
All five options will be discussed in detail when the Joint Chiefs and other senior officials meet with the President tomorrow.
As for those reports on Obama having already decided …
President Barack Obama’s national security adviser dismissed reports that the administration has reached a decision to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.
Obama hasn’t received final options that he has requested, neither has he reviewed those alternatives with his national security team, said National Security Adviser James Jones, responding to reports by the Associated Press and CBS News. The AP reported Obama would add “tens of thousands more forces,” while CBS said he plans to send four combat brigades plus thousands more support troops.
“Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false,” Jones said in a e-mailed statement today. “Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.”
The earlier reports came from White House sources. Either the Obama administration wanted to float some trial balloons that could later be disavowed, or someone in the West Wing is unhappy about the options Obama is considering. I’d lean heavily towards the first option, which could easily be tested: CBS and McClatchy can make their sources public. After all, this administration is calling them and their sources liars, essentially, so what do they owe their sources anyway?
Why is the Obama administration floating these trial balloons three months after McChrystal reported back on the necessary resourcing for the Af-Pak theater and the counterinsurgency strategy Obama himself championed for the last three years? He’s the Commander in Chief, and this is not a political campaign. Before now, Obama used the elections in Afghanistan as an excuse for his dithering, which this has very obviously become. That excuse expired two weeks ago, and now we’re getting a flurry of trial balloons rather than leadership and a decision.
It’s time to make a decision, Mr. President, one which you’ve had three months to make. If Obama is just now getting around to hearing back on five options, then he either needs to fire his staff for their lack of preparation or admit that this has been a low priority for him while Americans fight and die on the front lines. One does not win wars by waiting three months to decide on whether to properly resource the only real option for victory.