Sep 26, 2009
Why is Gates Delaying Troop Request?
Afghan Troop Request Simmers
By Yochi J. Dreazen
Wall Street Journal
September 26, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, is expected to formally ask the Pentagon for up to 40,000 additional U.S. troops this weekend, military officials said, despite a plan to delay the request.
Gen. McChrystal has held off on the request for several weeks at the! direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Pentagon's civilian leadership, while the Obama administration conducts a broad reassessment of its strategy in Afghanistan.
Aides to Mr. Gates say the defense chief won't forward the request to the White House until that review has been completed -- and if its conclusion is to maintain the current war strategy.
On Friday, Gen. McChrystal flew to Germany to deliver a briefing on the request to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other senior military commanders.
Adm. Mullen, the nation's top military officer, requested the half-day meeting at an American base at Ramstein, "to gain a better understanding of the pending resource requirements," according to a military official familiar with the meeting. "He wanted to talk about it face to face with Gen. McChrystal, to really hear him out."
Another military! official said Gen. McChrystal used the session to detail the numbers of additional troops he wants and his overall plans for using them to beat back the resurgent Taliban.
Military officials familiar with the matter say Gen. McChrystal's written report lays out several options for additional forces, including one that would ask for more than 40,000 reinforcements. About 65,000 American troops are now in Afghanistan, the most since the war began in 2001.
It is far from clear that Gen. McChrystal will get the additional troops, which the commander says are vital to turning around the flagging U.S.-led war.
The Obama administration announced a new Afghanistan strategy in March that focused on protecting Afghan civilians from Taliban attack rather than hunting individual militants. It is now weighing whether to modify or jettison that approach in the wake of a lingering controversy over the country's flawed presidential elections and a wave of Taliban violence.
Gen. McChrystal also faces hurdles in Congress, where many Dem! ocrats have expressed resistance to a troop increase and have been pressing for an exit strategy.
Five U.S. troops were killed in volatile southern Afghanistan Thursday, part of a surge of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troop fatalities that is sapping public support for the war in the U.S. and Europe.
Thursday's casualties pushed the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan to 218 this year, including 36 this month, a sharp increase over last year's record toll of 155. Britain, which maintains the second-largest troop contingent, has lost 80 soldiers this year.
In a sign of the growing doubts about the war on both sides of the Atlantic, a British military commander who had led its forces in Afghanistan resigned suddenly after reportedly accusing the government of failing to provide its troops with the proper protective equipment and vehicles.
Maj. Gen. Andrew Mackay, who led the British forces in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province in 200! 7 and 2008, submitted his resignation Thursday. An American officer wh o served with him in Afghanistan said Gen. Mackay had come to believe British troops there were being exposed to unnecessary risk.
Osama bin Laden, the fugitive head of al Qaeda, apparently sought to seize on the war's unpopularity in Europe by releasing a recording Friday demanding that European nations withdraw troops and threatening attacks against European targets. U.S. officials said they believed the recording to be authentic.
The five-minute monologue by the terrorist mastermind made specific mention of a recent airstrike ordered by German forces and was part of a video that featured German subtitles, a still photo of Mr. bin Laden and a map of Europe.