One of the political sticking points that emerged between the leaking of General Stanley McChrystal's strategy memo and President Obama's announcement of the Afghanistan escalation was whether Obama would commit enough troops to what is now being called the extended surge. The basic read on the issue was that the White House's political opposition was ready to jump on the administration if it failed to hit some sort of magic number of troop levels. Once Obama made his announcement, GOP opposition on the troop level issue seemed to subside in favor of concern-trolling over the exit strategy.
But it didn't go away entirely! This morning, Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) took up the matter with McChrystal:
MCKEON: You know, I have heard that your request of the President was anywhere from 10,000 to 80,000 additional troops. We have not been given your request. All we've had to go on is what we've heard. With each option I know that you requested -- you tied it to a risk factor. Now, when I was in Afghanistan in August, and we met, I mentioned that I know had you been given certain direction from [Secretary of Defense Robert Gates] and from others, and I asked you directly if that was going to influence the request that you made of the Commander-In-Chief. You told me, no. You said, you have a moral obligation to ask for what you needed to be successful in the mission. As I mentioned, Congress has not had the opportunity to review your troop requests. We did -- we were able to read the original assessment that you sent, but I have the highest level of confidence that you adhered to your word and asked for what you thought you needed given your best military judgment to be successful. General, can you tell this committee and the American people what were the different force options you requested and the degree of risk that was tied to those requests?
McCrystal replied, "That is still a classified document. So I'm unable to go into detail," but he was willing to discuss the decision-making process. The bottom line: "I thought it was a very healthy exchange as Ambassador Eikenberry laid out, getting everything on the table, getting everybody very clear on where we were, and what I think came out of that was, as we focused on the mission, the understanding of the mission, I believe that the president's decision reflects resourcing, resources that do, that are congruent with what I recommended we needed. So I'm very comfortable with the outcome resource-wise of what was made in the process."
McChrystal would add: "So starting very quickly, beginning this month, actually, with deployment, we will have a significant increased force on the ground that's going to allow us to turn the momentum, both actual momentum on the ground and momentum in the eyes of the Afghan people over about the next 18 months."
McKeon also asked McChrystal if he "recommend[ed] that the troops begin withdrawal by July 2011." McChrystal averred, "I did not recommend anything to do with -- I made no recommendations at all, no."
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