I’ve been thinking more about the timing of the WaPo’s publication of Woodward’s bombshell and the accompanying materials this morning.
It seems clear to me Woodward must have had the text of the McChrystal Assessment for a number of days. His colleagues had the time to do some good follow-up reporting with Gen. Jim Jones and other senior officials. Also, the WaPo and the Pentagon had time to negotiate the amounts of the assessment that the WaPo could put onto its public web-site. So obviously, the folks inside the administration knew that Woodward had it and the WaPo was going to publish it.
Yesterday, Obama was doing his big t.v. blitz– going onto five major t.v. news-discussion programs to discuss primarily health-care but also aware he’d be getting questions about Afghanistan and other issues.
Here’s what he said on Afghanistan on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
- When we came in, basically, there had been drift in our Afghan strategy. Everybody acknowledges that. And I ordered a top to bottom review. The most important thing I wanted was us to refocus on why we’re there. We’re there because al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans and we cannot allow extremists who want to do violence to the United States to be able to operate with impunity.
Now, I think we’ve lost — we lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a– a classic case of mission creep where we’re just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions.
I wanted to narrow it. I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important. That was before the review was completed. I also said after the election I want to do another review. We’ve just gotten those 21,000 in. General McChrystal, who’s only been there a few months, has done his own assessment.
I am now going to take all this information and we’re going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm’s way, we are defeating al Qaeda and — and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me — somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops, then we will do what’s required to keep the American people safe.
Well, strictly speaking, back on March 27, when he made the decision based on that first “top to bottom review”, he decided to expand both the troop numbers and the troop mission in Afghanistan. Only at some later point did he decide he wanted to “narrow” it.
In their piece in the WaPo today, Rajiv Chadrasekaran and Karen DeYoung write that the chaos surrounding the holding of last month’s Afghan election was a turning point for the administration.
Also, note the apparent put-down of McChrystal in what Obama said.
So, a couple of quick points here. Did the WaPo delay the publication of today’s news reports to allow Obama to get his version out to the public first– or was there some other reasoning behind the timing of publishing these stories?
Also, McChrystal may well not last long in his job.
But whether he does or not, the bigger issue here is that Obama and his national-security team are going to have to do some very broad thinking (as I noted earlier– see # 2 here) if they want to find a way to ramp down the currently huge risks the US/NATO troops face in Afghanistan.