A few tidbits:
Though a decorated Army four-star officer, the General's introduction to Beltway warfare is proving to be brutal. To be fair, Gen. McChrystal couldn't know that his Commander in Chief would go wobbly so soon on his commitment to him as well as to his own Afghan strategy when he was tapped for the job in AprilWe're told by people who know him that Gen. McChrystal "feels terrible" and "had no intention whatsoever of trying to lobby and influence" the Administration. His sense of bewilderment makes perfect sense anywhere but in the political battlefield of Washington. He was, after all, following orders.
Recall that in March Mr. Obama unveiled his "comprehensive new strategy . . . to reverse the Taliban's gains and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government." The Commander in Chief pledged to properly resource this "war of necessity," which he also called during the 2008 campaign "the central front on terror." The President then sacked his war commander, who had been chosen by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in favor of Gen. McChrystal, an expert in counterinsurgency.
Upon arriving in June, Gen. McChrystal launched his assessment of the forces required to execute the Obama strategy. His confidential study was completed in August and sent to the Pentagon. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen told Congress that more troops would be needed, and a figure of 30,000-40,000 was bandied about.
The figure has clearly spooked the Administration. Soon after, Gen. McChrystal's confidential report was leaked to the Washington Post by, well, you'll have to ask Bob Woodward. The report said that the U.S. urgently needs to reverse a "deteriorating" security situation. Soon the full retreat began in Washington, led by a vocal group within the Administration that wants to scale back the mission. The White House told the Pentagon to hold off asking for troops and Gen. McChrystal not to testify to Congress. Remarkably, President Obama mused on the Sunday talks shows, "Are we doing the right thing?"
As we've learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan, successful counterterrorism requires intelligence. This comes from earning the trust of the people, which in turn can only happen if they are protected. The Biden approach would pull U.S. soldiers back behind high walls, far from the field of battle, and turns security over to the Afghan army and police before they are prepared for the job.
The President's very public waver is already doing strategic harm. The Taliban are getting a morale boost and claiming victory, while our allies in Europe have one more reason to rethink their own deployments. Such a victory, as the head of the British army Sir David Richards warned on Sunday, would have an "intoxicating effect" on extremist Islam around the world.
Commanders in Chief can change their minds. George W. Bush waited too long to embrace the "surge." He had private doubts when the casualties also surged in 2007, but he gave the new approach a chance to succeed. Mr. Obama is blinking even before all the additional troops he ordered to Afghanistan have had time to deploy to the theater.