President Barack Obama's handpicked general, General David Petraeus, presently leading the war effort in Afghanistan, will soon ask the commander-in-chief for more time, the New York Times reports. This comes nearly 9 months after Obama courageously decided on a surge in Afghanistan, adding 30,000 troops to fight in the war. But the additional troops, at least not all of them, have arrived. That should happen only by the end of this month.
When Obama declared his intention of redoubling the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, he first stressed the reason for entering the war in the first place: "We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more."
Obama traced the hijackers to the Islamist terrorist group al Qaeda and to Afghanistan, where the terrorists "were harbored by the Taliban." The president, additionally, emphasized the near unanimous support for the war in Afghanistan among members of Congress, and stressed Nato's involvement in bolstering America's war effort.
Readily acknowledging the difficulty of beating back the terrorists on their home turf, Obama signaled that his resolve, just like the previous president's resolve, was unwavering. "America -- we are passing through a time of great trial," the president said. "And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes."
In that same speech, the president also established a timeline for American departure from Afghanistan. "[T]hese additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," Obama told a crowded West Point auditorium.
That timeline, not the arguments in favor of the war, is precisely what Petraeus is pushing back against.
Petraeus was personally chosen by the president to replace General Stanley McChrystal, after the embattled McChrystal was forced to resign. Petraeus only officially assumed command in July. Since taking the position, the general has been conducting his own review of the war, while keeping a "low profile."
According the New York Times, Petraeus is expected to begin laying the groundwork to make the case to extend the U.S. war effort as early as this weekend, when he appears on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.
Though he'll regretably be remembered most for his turn in Rolling Stone, we should not forget Gen. Stanley McChrystal's contributions to his country, the Army, and the conflict in Afghanistan.
At McChrystal's Fort McNair retirement ceremony Friday, Robert Gates said of the general, "Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal."
The tone is respectful to McChrystal, but mindful of his breach. Obama takes the opportunity to reinforce the American commitment to victory in Afghanistan rather than back away from it. And, the speech is blissfully, only eight minutes long.
Many on the center-right have settled on some version of the Peter Robinson/Jennifer Rubin/Daniel Foster/National Review solution for the mess made by General Stanley McChrystal and his staff. In that scenario, McChrystal offers to resign and President Obama, in the interest of winning the war and broader U.S. national security, refuses to accept it.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal is a hero—a selfless, fearless and inspiring soldier. He is also something of a military genius. In Iraq, as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003-2008, he created an extraordinary military operation.
In a phone interview this afternoon, Senator John McCain expanded on his statement from this morning on General Stanley McChrystal and the general's comments to Rolling Stone:
"If the president fires McChrystal, we need a new ambassador and we need an entire new team over there. But most importantly, we need the president to say what Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates have both said but what the president refuses to say: Our withdrawal in the middle of 2011 will be conditions based. It's got to be conditions based and he's got to say it."
If Stan McChrystal has to go—and he probably does—it will be a sad end to a career of great distinction and a low moment in a lifetime devoted to duty, honor, and country. But the good of the mission and the prospects for victory in Afghanistan may well now demand a new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Here’s the statement by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which suggests they think Gen. McChrystal ought to offer to resign, and that the president should probably accept the offer:
It may have been his hardest vote yet. When he walked onto the House floor on March 10, John Campbell, Republican of California, wasn't sure how he'd vote on Dennis Kucinich's resolution to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. He had agonized over the decision all week. In his view, the language of the resolution was too strict. It tied the president's hands. Campbell had decided the day before that he wouldn't vote No, however. Even so, the temptation remained to simply vote Present. Except there'd be no courage to that vote, he thought. Which is why Campbell ultimately voted Yes.
The vote made Campbell one of five Republicans calling for an immediate withdrawal from the central front of the war on terror. His compatriots -- Ron Paul, Walter Jones, Tim Johnson, and John Duncan -- all opposed George W. Bush's Iraq surge. But Campbell, who won a special election to replace outgoing Chris Cox in December 2005, supported the surge and says "Iraq was winnable and has strategic value." He reluctantly come to the conclusion that the same cannot be said of Afghanistan.
I simply do not believe that we can establish a lasting westernized democracy in a society that has been based on tribal cultural ties for centuries. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, as well as the porous and uncontrolled border region with Northern Pakistan, makes control of this area exceedingly difficult. Iraq's terrain and culture were and are much more suited to these types of operations. I still believe that there was much strategic value to establishing a friendly Iraqi government in a critical region of the world that includes Iran, Syria, Israel, and others. While I acknowledge the significance of Pakistan’s possession of, by some estimates, as many as 100 nuclear weapons, I just don't believe that control of Afghanistan has the same strategic value.
I'm hoping to speak to Campbell later today and will report back then.
In 2009, President Obama made several courageous national security decisions, including extending his campaign timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and sending tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. Both contravened many in his party who wanted U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible and who are worried that Afghanistan will become Obama's Vietnam.