Gates Wants Leaders' War Advice Kept Private - Ann Scott Tyson and Scott Wilson. Washington Post.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates cautioned military and civilian leaders Monday against publicly airing their advice to President Obama on Afghanistan, just days after the top US general in that country criticized proposals being advocated by some in the White House. "In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations - civilians and military alike - provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately," Gates said in a speech at the annual meeting of the Association of the US Army. The Army's top general immediately echoed Gates's remarks, which seemed designed to rein in dissent within the ranks.
The remarks by Gates and Gen. George W. Casey Jr. came four days after Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of US and international troops in Afghanistan, said publicly that a proposal to scale back significantly the US military presence in the country would be "shortsighted." Since then, the administration has sought to tamp down the appearance of any divisions over strategy between McChrystal, Obama's handpicked commander, and the White House. In a blunt assessment disclosed last month, McChrystal warned that the coalition's mission in Afghanistan could fail without a new military strategy and additional troops. Officials are reviewing that assessment and are discussing strategy in a series of meetings at the White House...
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Tensions Rise Over Afghanistan War Strategy - Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that President Obama's advisors should keep their guidance private, in effect admonishing the top commander in Afghanistan for publicly advocating an approach requiring more troops even as the White House reassesses its strategy. The comment by Gates came a day after Obama's national security advisor, James L. Jones, said that military commanders should convey their advice through the chain of command - a reaction to Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's public statements in support of his troop-intensive strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan.
The exchanges suggested some disarray in the Obama administration's attempts to forge a new policy on Afghanistan and underscored wide differences among top officials over the correct approach. In May, Obama tapped McChrystal, a special forces commander, to take charge of the Afghanistan effort and institute a sweeping counterinsurgency strategy. Obama and McChrystal spoke Friday aboard Air Force One on an airport tarmac in Copenhagen, and White House officials did not detail what the two talked about. Still, Pentagon officials dismissed suggestions Monday that the 55-year-old commander was in any professional jeopardy. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said it would be "absurd" to think McChrystal had lost favor or standing with the administration...
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A General Within Bounds - Michael O'Hanlon, Washington Post opinion.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has come under fire for making public comments about the war. While answering questions after an Oct. 1 speech - in which he avoided taking sides in the policy debate - McChrystal challenged a popular alternative to the approach that President Obama sent him to Afghanistan to pursue. An op-ed on this page Saturday argued that a battlefield commander should not get ahead of his president in public. Next, national security adviser James L. Jones faulted McChrystal for speaking outside his internal chain of command while the president is reviewing his strategy and basic assumptions about the war. Certainly, if given a do-over, McChrystal might make different, more nuanced statements; he was indeed too blunt and impolitic. But the criticism goes too far.
The Obama/McChrystal plan is classic counterinsurgency and focuses on protecting the Afghan population while strengthening Afghan security forces and government. McChrystal was asked about a "counterterrorism" strategy that would purportedly contain al-Qaeda with much lower numbers of American troops, casualties and other costs. McChrystal did not try to force the president's hand on whether to increase the foreign troop presence in Afghanistan. The general critiqued an option that is at direct odds with Obama's policy and conflicts with the experiences of the US military this decade. That is not fundamentally out of line for a commander...
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