McChrystal report officially backburnered now

After everyone else had heard what General Stanley McChrystal needs for his mission to succeed in Afghanistan, the Obama administration took official custody today of the report that requests a significant troop increase for the Af-Pak theater.  However, Barack Obama will not officially get to see it for a while.  The Pentagon says they will hold his request, officially, until Obama officially makes an official decision about the officially official policy he wants to officially pursue in the war:

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has submitted a request for more troops, a spokesman said Saturday, but the Pentagon will hold it while President Barack Obama decides what strategy to pursue.

General Stanley McChrystal hand delivered his long-awaited request to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, said spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tadd Sholtis.

“At the end of that meeting General McChrystal did provide a copy of the force requirements to Admiral Mullen on the U.S. side and Admiral Stavridis on the NATO side,” Sholtis said after McChrystal returned from the meeting at an air base in Germany. …

The White House says it wants to review the entire strategy for the region before considering McChrystal’s request.

“Right now the focus is on the strategic assessment itself. It (the troop request) will be shelved until such time that the White House is ready,” a defense official said in Washington.

Er … what?  Doesn’t the strategic assessment include required troop strengths?  McChrystal’s report should be a key part of those considerations, since the strategic considerations rely on having the force strength required to support the strategy.

Shelving the request makes it clear that Obama and the White House want to conduct a political review of the mission.  That’s not illegitimate; after all, part of the consideration has to be whether our allies have the political will to support us in the Af-Pak theater, as well as whether Americans have the political will to continue the fight.  If neither exists, then the entire question of strategy is moot, and the focus will shift to retreat from the theater.

The problem with this is that the Obama administration has already had plenty of time for political calculation.  They have been in office since January, and Obama campaigned for two years on the pledge to fight in Afghanistan with more resources and focus than the previous administration.  The politics of the war have not changed much, at least in terms other than polling.

Obama wanted to be Commander in Chief, and he has had that role for eight months.  The question of politics should have already been well settled by this time.  So far he has done a good job of fighting the war in Afghanistan, but this very public vacillation undermines the projection of American strength in the region and encourages a defeatist attitude.  It’s time to fish or cut bait on the politics and start seriously addressing the strategy, if we’re going to fight and win this war.

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