The Bar For New Afghanistan Troops Is ‘Set Pretty High’ But Isn’t ‘Unclearable’: DOD Official

My longer piece on the Gates/Mullen presser is here, from the Washington Independent. Today’s a really significant day in the Afghanistan debate. Commenting on the prospective request for more troops from Gen. McChrystal, Gates both reiterated and undermined his January statement to the Senate about being "very skeptical about additional force levels" beyond the 30,000 troops (24,000 of which were delivered by both Bush and Obama) that McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan asked for. Gates said he "take[s] seriously" a point made by McChrystal: that the way U.S. troops behave in Afghanistan is more important that the number of them in the country. At the same time, when a reporter asked Gates what makes him worry about a too-large American presence, replied simply: "History." 

So to interpret that, I turned to a Pentagon official who hasn’t steered me wrong or bullshitted me in the past. I had no choice to grant this person anonymity, since this is the most delicate and controversial issue inside the Defense Department right now.

 “You can be sure that the initial McChrystal request will not be rubber stamped without a lot of scrutiny. The bar is not unclearable for major increases — but it’s set pretty high.”

You can click the link for my whole take on this. But my short answer: Gates hasn’t made up his mind, and McChrystal will have to sell him. And not with pat arguments.

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Spencer Ackerman

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