Mullen: More Troops 'Probably' Needed in Afghanistan

Military Chief Suggests Need to Enlarge US Afghan Force - Thom Shanker, New York Times.

The nation's top military officer pushed back Tuesday against Democrats who oppose sending additional combat troops to Afghanistan, telling Congress that success would probably require more fighting forces, and certainly much more time.

That assessment by the officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of an explicit request for more troops. But it signals that the military intends to have a public voice in the evolving debate as many Democrats express reluctance to expand the war and President Obama weighs options...

Moer at The New York Times.

Call for an Afghan Surge - Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal.

America's top military officer endorsed sending more US troops to Afghanistan, a shift in Pentagon rhetoric that heralds a potential deepening of involvement in the Afghan war despite flagging support from the public and top Democrats in Congress. Addressing a Senate panel, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered no new details about how many American reinforcements will be needed in Afghanistan. But his comments mean that both Adm. Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spoke on the subject last week, now appear —to order more forces to Afghanistan despite their earlier skepticism about expanding the American military presence there.

Their support makes it easier for President Barack Obama to approve the plans of Gen. Stanley McChrystal - whom the Obama administration installed as the top American commander in Kabul - when he submits a formal request later this month for as many as 40,000 new troops, in addition to 62,000 now there...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

Mullen: More Troops 'Probably' Needed - Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post.

The nation's top military officer told Congress on Tuesday that the US war in Afghanistan "probably needs more forces" and sought to reassure lawmakers skeptical of sending additional troops that commanders were devising new tactics that would lead to victory over a resurgent Taliban.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 2,000 to 4,000 additional military trainers from the United States and its NATO partners will be needed to "jump-start" the expansion of Afghan security forces and strongly suggested that more US combat troops will be required to provide security in the short term. "A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably needs more forces," Mullen said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mullen spoke amid a growing political debate over Afghanistan as President Obama weighs a recently completed assessment of the war by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander there...

More at The Washington Post.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen Says More Troops Probably Needed in Afghanistan - Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times.

Facing increasingly skeptical congressional Democrats, the nation's top uniformed officer said Tuesday that the Obama administration's strategy to counter Afghanistan militants probably means that more troops will be needed there. The comments are likely to sharpen an intensifying national debate over the future of the mission in Afghanistan that could force President Obama to decide between military leaders pushing for more firepower and his political base wary of a quagmire. Growing numbers of Democrats, including top congressional leaders, have expressed doubts about increasing the number of combat troops.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that he had not received a formal request for additional trainers and combat troops. But Mullen said that, based on the strategy outlined by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, a larger force is likely to be needed. "He is alarmed by the insurgency, and he is in a position where he needs to retake the initiative from the insurgents, who have grabbed it over the last three years," Mullen said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee...

More at The Los Angeles Times.

President Obama's Top Military Adviser Exposes Afghanistan Rifts - Giles Whittell, Michael Evans and Catherine Philp, The Times.

Deep rifts at the heart of Western policy on Afghanistan were laid bare yesterday when President Obama's top military adviser challenged him to authorise a troop surge that his most senior congressional allies have said they will oppose. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more US troops as well as a rapid increase in the size and capability of the Afghan army were needed to carry out the President's own strategy for prevailing in Afghanistan as the eighth anniversary of a debilitating war approaches.

His remarks to a Senate hearing came as Bob Ainsworth, the British Defence Secretary, said that the Taleban had proven a resilient enemy. "We're far from succeeding against them yet but I reject that we're not making progress," he said at King's College London. Mr Obama also rejected claims that Afghanistan was turning into a quagmire akin to Vietnam, but his immediate dilemma is political: approving a surge could trigger a high-level mutiny within his own party. Making matters worse, a new poll showed that public support for the war has slumped since April...

More at The Times.

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Comments

I'm curious if there is another way to read this. There is a lot of doubt in all circles - left and right, Dem and Rep, hawks and peaceniks - as to whether we should continue operations in Afghanistan. A large troop request could push the perceived cost/sacrifice of the Afghanistan mission above a threshold that the public is not willing to tolerate. If so, this could give the President the political capital to say, "folks, this is the price of continuing... can we pay it? I say no. We will begin a responsible withdrawal." Furthermore, he can simply blame it on 8 years of mismanagement by his predecessor.

I wonder if the media's seemingly reflexive reaction is due to inside information or just a habit of misunderstanding the military. To say that "the military intends to have a public voice" - as the NY Times article said - suggests that the military favors an escalation, in opposition to the administration. I think that is a hasty judgment, given the facts on the table. It could very well be part of a series of well coordinated messages by the CinC, by the CJCS, and by the SECDEF to manage expectations and carefully sway public opinion to make withdrawal politically feasible - if not with the intent of withdrawal, then at least to ensure that we keep that option available.