October 7th, 2009
04:40 PM ET
9 years ago

Afghan discussion to include talk about troop levels

In an unusual move, the president asked for and received the 'informal' request by the top commander in Afghanistan.

In an unusual move, the president asked for and received the 'informal' request by the top commander in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON (CNN)– President Barack Obama's national security team will begin discussing the number of troops needed in Afghanistan as early as this Friday, according to a White House spokesman.

In an unusual move, the president asked for and received the "informal" request by the top commander in Afghanistan which outlined how many more troops and resources Gen. Stanley McChrystal needed to implement his preferred Afghanistan strategy, the Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. Obama received the request on Thursday, a day before he met with McChrystal in Copenhagen.

The discussion of troop levels appears to be a departure from the administration insistance that the Afghanistan strategy must be decided before any resources can be considered. The White House's spokesman said the introduction of troop levels did not mean resource levels were being decided first.

"One has to develop and get the strategy before one can figure out the resources one needs to get it," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "We are not pre-judging the outcome of the discussion based on some range of resources."

As part of the strategy review, some discussion of resources is necessary, a senior US official said.

"We are now working on what are called the resource options piece. It's actually resourcing the strategy, and that is about to be introduced into the discussion here as well," he said.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Central Command had hinted at this during a Tuesday speech in Washington.

"All participants recognize that, at the appropriate moment, the level of resourcing required has to be discussed as a component of the decision-making process. And that moment is just about upon us," the official said.

The White House insisted there is no change in approach.

"The president is very content not to do this backwards. Not to pick a number of troops and devise a strategy but to go through this in a rigourous way," Gibbs added.

In preparation, the chiefs of staff for the four services held an hour-long meeting on Tuesday to give Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their views on Afghanistan and the impact of sending more troops, two Defense Department officials said.. Adm. Mullen is attending the White House meetings.

The president's receipt of the informal version of the resource request - before it had been reviewed and commented on by McChrystal's superiors, including Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates - is a departure from the traditional process. The principals involved in the president's review of Afghanistan strategy were given the same document on Monday, spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

The Pentagon's spokesman said the move was not an attempt to circumvent the chain of command and it is not an indication that a strategy has been settled on.

"Let's work it through the chain of command as it should be and we can use that time towards that ends while this discussion, at a more macro level, takes place," Morrell said at a Pentagon press conference.


–CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Death Panel moderator

    Troop levels? Let's ask if we're nation-building or not. We should get out before more innocent civilians get killed. I'm shocked that no one from the religious community speaks out against war anymore.

    October 7, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Duck Fallas

    Thinking before acting? What kind of leadership is this?

    October 7, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Let's get some facts correct. It's not McCrystals 'preferred strategy'. Mccrystal was hand picked by Obama in May to execute the strategy Obama put in place in march. Obama's strategy isn't working. Big surprise there. McCrystal says to execute Obama's strategy he needs 40,000 more troops. This worsening situation is squarely on Obama's shoulders. He picked the strategy, and things have gotten worse. Now he waffles when the person best able to say what's needed asks for help.

    October 7, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  4. Dar

    So how long do you think it would take for Odumbo to answer that 3am phone call he said he was ready to take.
    God Bless All

    October 7, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. On second thought

    Thinking instead of acting? What kind of leadership is this?

    October 7, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. victim of republican greed

    On June 15, 2004 George Bush declared "Victory" over the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. I think George might have been untruthful. The troop level has been increased this year, and it good that the president weighs the options, despite what Fox Lies reports.

    October 7, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Peter E

    Eight years ago we had Al Quaida on the run, trapped in the mountains of Afghanistan with no way out. Then thanks to the infinite wisdom of Bush we abandoned the pursuit and redirected our resources to Iraq's 'imminent threat' from 'WMDs.' Even after we took care of Saddam Bush refused to reinvigorate our efforts in Afghanistan. This gave Al Quaida plenty of time and comfortable breathing room to relocate across the border to Pakistan where our troops cannot pursue them. Thank you Bush for leaving us with a war we could have won years ago!

    October 7, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |

    GOP: Act before thinking or without thinking (8 yrs Bush, Palin's new facebook page, GOP health care reform)
    Democrats: Think before acting (Dem health care reform, troop levels, global warming strategy)

    Sorry if the right wingers see 'thinking' and 'analysis' as waffling or delaying....guess they are used to a President who commits our troops to situations before they even know what they are committed to, and then try and cover-up the mess later (i.e. Guantanamo)......
    It is SO refreshing to have a President who can think! No more sitting at home at night wondering if Bush was going to invade another country!

    October 7, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. yougottobekidding

    If George Bush had done the job right the first time, we would not be asking for more troops. That PHONY war in Irag which drained the US resources and finances. Now you have the nerve to blame Obama? These wing nuts have no brains!

    October 7, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. yougottobekidding

    These GOP's are crying about the deficit, but they are willing to spend billions on a useless war. Talk about idiots!

    October 7, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. No one else to blame

    News Flash: The Democrats are in power now.

    October 7, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. Grrr-awful-o

    Boy, what a bunch of double speak. I tried to write down the administration's various statements as bullets on a piece of paper and I can't tell what they're saying. Discussing troop strength first, not discussing it first... fitting strength to a strategy, not having decided on a strategy, but not talking about strength, all the while discussing troop strength.

    If anyone can decipher all that into a two sentence statement we will all thank you.

    And what is with calling McChrystal's troop increase request "informal"? It sounded adamant to me ("we will fail without it"). I think we can safely interpret this as McChrystal being the latest person to be found solidly under President Gelding's bus. Sweet!

    October 7, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. Grrr-awful-o

    Anybody remember who attacked the US on 9/11/01 (Oh, I know it's so boorish to bring THAT up again)? Anybody remember where their base camp was? Anybody think they just might resume activities there if we fail?

    OK, I concede that the war may not be winable in conventional terms (and I'm asking all you "thinkers" out there to really think and not just react in the usual way). Containment and keeping those bent on attacking us occupied there (instead of here) may be as good as it gets and it may be a long time that we have to fight over there to keep that status quo in place. No one wants war (really!). But it would be utter stupidity to think we can let the Taliban and/or Al Queda (and they are brother organizations with the same goals) resume activities there. Could anyone be surprised if terrorist attacks increase in that scenario? Including here? What do you think their primary goals are???

    THINK you thinkers!

    October 7, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  14. jules sand-perkins

    Oh, by all means–I didn't realize that we went there to "nation build" Afghanistan. I thought there was some kind of trouble before we started the war.
    Also, if Innocent Civilians are being–or even might be–killed, we certainly should get out by tomorrow at the latest! Wars should be fought in open fields, although not on farms, a good distance from towns or villages.
    Religions should absolutely be pressuring the administration to get out of any and all wars. There's been far too much of this separation of Church and State thing, anyway. Think of all the People and Other Living Things...the flowers.
    Forget the World Trade Center. Have we apologized for that yet?

    Before the upside-down cake baked by hippies in the 1960s, the USA was in the business of actually winning the wars that came our way.

    October 7, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  15. Mike in MN

    If Obama has actually been talking to McChrystal on a regular basis like he should have all along he would not need to spend all this time trying to figure out what to do now. What a joke. But he did have time to give a speech on health care every day for the last 3 months. No balance there at all. Guess he can't multi task after all.

    October 7, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. Gerry

    Obama can't make a decission it has to be George Bush's fault. It's 3 AM in the morning it's George Bush's fault. Put a health care plan into law before reading and understanding it it's George Bush's fault. Can't the democrats take any resposibility for what they are doing?

    October 7, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom

    We can send a million Troops to Afghanistan, and we will condemn them to be there for the next 50 years! Consider the COST.

    We can not get rid of the Taliban, ONLY Afghans rising up against the Taliban will end their reign of terror. And keep in mind, people, that the Taliban wants control of Afghanistan, they are NOT the ones who attacked us on September 11th 2001! Those were ...... Saudi Arabians!

    Afghanistan is the Vietnam of the 21st Century, we will leave Afghanistan sooner or later, we can not beat the Taliban.

    The Soviets fought the Taliban in Afghanistan for TEN YEARS, and left. We will do the same, and Bush will go down in history as the idiot he is for fighting this losing war!


    October 7, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  18. LacrosseMom

    For the GOPers:

    A little history lesson,

    Ronald Reagan, trained and armed the Taliban.

    Ronald Reagan said, "These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers." Reagan said this when he introduced the Afghan Mujahideen, who visited him at the White House in 1985!

    The U.S. must stop meddling in sovereign nations. It will be the end of our Nation!

    October 7, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. S Callahan NYS

    War is ugly..no matter where it is. .....in the meantime our men and woman are waiting anxiously for our support.....

    October 7, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  20. Vietnam Vet

    The war mongers are out, the hell with strategy, full speed ahead, its a good thing we have a President who is intelligent and views the whole war rather than with blinders on like the majority of the republicans. Remember the WMD war, what did we accomplish, absoulutely nothing.

    October 7, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  21. Nina

    Guess Obama running for president and in his speech saying he want to shift the issue to Afganistan was bull. When your generals call for more troops you should listen. That doesn't mean take weeks or months to debate it. This is what happens when you vote for a non-military man! So similar to the waffling we did with clinton in Somalia. I was there for his waffling and run in defeat event. I guess BO will do the same. I pray he is smarter then I think he is and listens.

    October 7, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  22. Barbara- a Canadian

    I'm extremely thankful that President Obama is analyzing the situtation in Afghanistan before deciding the way forward. It is a complex situation, and it is refreshing to see that all avenues are being explored. Before someone questions what business it is of a Canadian, please remember that not only American blood has been shed there. Canadians have been fighting in Afghanistan from the beginning... (including my grandson), and have lost many of our sons, daughters, fathers, sons and wives to the conflict. We were there fighting at the beginning, stayed after your former President left for another war, and continue to be there. Thank God President Obama is taking his time on this.

    October 7, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  23. tony

    We should tell all these terriost groups that we will not come after them if they do not bother us and the allies that have been true to the U.S. If they attack other countries like France and Spain to name a few oh well. Let the rest of the world defend its country and bring our women and men home. Tell Iran, N. Korea, and Venezuela to be nice or....

    October 7, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  24. Barbara

    Trying again.... somehow my post just "disappears"....seems "strange" to me!!!!.

    I am thankful that your President is taking his time analysing the war in Afghanistan. And, before you ask why a Canadian is concerned, please remember that it is not only American blood being shed there. Canadians (includeng my grandson) were there fighting at the beginning, stayed after your former President left fo another war, and have been there fighting ever since. The only way you hear of our casualties is in the term NATO deaths. So.. thank God President Obama is weighing all options.

    October 7, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  25. Dave

    On matters of war and national security, trying to appease everyone, ends up appeasing no one! Failure is around the corner

    October 7, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
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