The Heritage Foundation
On December 1, 2009, when President Barack Obama announced his new Afghanistan policy after months of delay, Denise Young of Kokomo, Ind., who has a 22-year-old son serving in the war, told The Wall Street Journal what she wanted to hear from the commander in chief: “That he is going to let the generals make the decisions. They have asked for more troops. They should get them. There is safety in numbers.” Today, we learned from a sneak preview of Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s War, that President Barack Obama completely failed Mrs. Young.
Instead of listening to his generals, we learn that President Obama (who had zero military experience) was “at odds with his uniformed military commanders, particularly Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus,” who was then head of U.S. Central Command. When the Pentagon presented President Obama with a “low risk option” of an additional 80,000 troops that had the “best chance to contain the Taliban-led insurgency and stabilize Afghanistan,” Obama “bristled at what he saw as military commanders’ attempts to force him into a decision he was not yet comfortable with.”
Instead of listening to his generals, Obama drew up his own strategy calling for only 30,000 troops, denying Mrs. Young’s son the “safety in numbers” she so desperately wanted. After the Pentagon kept trying to reopen the President’s decision, Obama reportedly lost his poise, saying, “Why do we keep having these meetings?” and “I’m done doing this!”
But arguably worse than the President’s decision to send fewer troops than were needed to provide the best chance of success was the President’s insistence on a timeline for withdrawal. The morning after President Obama announced his strategy we wrote:
The announcement of a withdrawal date only provides a psychological advantage to the Taliban who will convince their recruits that the American will is lacking and thus they can just “wait us out.” Promising firm dates for troop pullouts is an entirely political move that has everything to do with placating the leftist base of the Democratic Party and nothing to do with the national security interests of the American people.
Woodward’s book confirms we were 100% correct. The New York Times reports today:
“I want an exit strategy,” [Obama] implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”
In June, President Obama was forced to relieve Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the general’s displeasure with Obama’s policy became public. He has since installed Gen. David Petraeus in that post. That’s the same Gen. Petraeus who, according to Woodward’s book, the White House banned from the Sunday talk shows and who disliked talking to Obama senior political aide David Axelrod because he was “a complete spin doctor.” Who is President Obama listening to more now? The spin doctor Axelrod or the architect of the surge in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus? In other words, what is Obama the president of? The Democratic Party or the United States of America? Having the courage to admit he made a horrendous mistake and officially dropping the Afghanistan withdrawal time line would go a long way to answering that question.
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