Kerry: Troop Decision Should Wait on Afghanistan Election

Posted October 18, 2009 at 12:29pm

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Sunday that it would irresponsible for President Barack Obama to make a decision about troop levels and overall military strategy in Afghanistan until the shape of the country’s government is resolved. Appearing on both CBS’s “Face the Nation” and CNN’s “State of the Union” from Kabul, Kerry discussed his meeting yesterday with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the proposal to send 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where a disputed presidential election has left the country’s leadership up in the air.”It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working with,” Kerry said on CNN.”There’s some very fundamental questions that have to be answered about the status of the Afghanistan government,” he added on CBS.White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, also appearing on the CBS and CNN talk shows, said on “State of the Union” it would be “reckless” to make a decision about U.S. troop levels without doing an analysis of whether “there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country.”Emanuel continued to emphasize that the decision about whether to send more troops is “only one piece of the puzzle,” albeit a very important piece when it comes to military strategy in the country. Emanuel said the White House is reviewing the overall strategy for Afghanistan and that the process would continue despite the unresolved presidential election there.”The review will continue next week. There will not be a delay in the review,” Emanuel said on CBS.There has been increasing pressure from Members for McChrystal to appear on Capitol Hill to answer questions about his plan and the troop request. Emanuel said on CBS that once Obama makes his highly anticipated decision, military leaders would be available to walk Congress through the strategy, and that would include McChrystal “if that is necessary, of course.” But he added that “in the president’s view the most important place for Gen. McChrystal to be is in the theater of battle.” Emanuel also said that if the president ultimately decides to approve more troops, funding for the increase would move through the supplemental appropriations process, as similar war funding requests have been handled for Iraq and Afghanistan in the past. Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on “Face the Nation” that delaying a decision about a troop increase and overall strategy could lead to emboldening American enemies. “Deliberation is a good thing when it come to fighting wars,” Cornyn said, before noting that the U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for eight years. “At some point deliberation begins to look more like indecisiveness, which then becomes a way of emboldening our enemies and causing our allies to question our resolve.”Cornyn said that while having a legitimate government is an important factor, that shouldn’t be the “linchpin” in deciding policy. “We shouldn’t let one component of this determine our national security here,” he said. On CBS, Kerry also said he discussed with McChrystal the need for making changes to the military’s counterinsurgency strategy. “Our response on counterinsurgency needs to be finely tuned to Afghanistan,” he said. “This is not Iraq. … We have a very different challenge. I think Gen. McChrystal is very aware of that.” He also said he was satisfied with Obama’s review of the Afghanistan policy and that he believes the current situation there differs from Vietnam, which became a highly politicized debate.”I’m convinced that the review the president is going through isexhaustive, it’s thorough, and I’m absolutely confident the president is not going to make a decision remotely connected to politics,” Kerry said on CNN. “He is going to make a decision based on the national security interests of our country and of what he thinks it takes to achieve the mission that he defines to meet those interests.