Right-wing media outlets have seized on leaked excerpts of Bob Woodward's upcoming book to suggest that President Obama has followed a strategy in Afghanistan that his generals think is folly. In fact, top Pentagon personnel, including Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have stated that they agree with Obama's Afghanistan strategy.
Conservative media attack Obama for supposedly ignoring military in formulating Afghanistan strategy
Limbaugh: "[T]his is raging incompetence." Obama is "ignoring the generals." On the September 22 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:
LIMBAUGH: What you know is that -- at least the excerpts that have been published in The New York Times -- this is raging incompetence, dangerously so. Obama not even talking about victory, ignoring the generals when promising parents of the troops that he would listen to the generals. He's ignoring them, coming up with his own timeline to get out of there for political expediency.
LIMBAUGH: This is meant to make Obama look good, because they know going in this guy's not competent. He hates the military. He doesn't know anything about it, and now he's commander-in-chief. So they're portraying him as a real tough guy. He knows more than the generals. He's not going to pay any attention to the generals. He's going to do what he wants to do.
Kilmeade: It's "wrong" that Obama disagreed with the generals on Afghanistan and wrote up his own exit strategy. On the September 22 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama's reported decision to write his own exit strategy. Kilmeade said that after sitting down with his generals, "this 48-year-old professor, lawyer, two-year senator draws up his own battle plan." Kilmeade later added that "it's wrong" that Obama did not defer to the military, because "it's like having Fireman Ed design a game plan for the Jets to beat the Dolphins."
Fox's McFarland: Obama clashed "with his military leaders, who are giving him their best advice," and "set it up to fail." Fox News national security analyst K.T. McFarland -- a former Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administration aide and former Republican Senate candidate -- said that the reporting in Woodward's book shows that Obama is "gonna get a lot of people killed." McFarland later added:
McFARLAND: Obama sat down -- this is his war -- and he went to his military war council, and he said, "These are the things I want to achieve: I want an exit, and I want to make sure that we get -- destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan." And so then his military commanders said, "OK, boss, this is what we need. We need more troops, and we need more time." And Obama said "no." He said I'll give you some more troops, but I've got that firm deadline. So what Obama has done frankly is he's set it up to fail.
McFARLAND: And he's also designed to come into conflict with his military leaders who are giving him their best advice. They're not politicians. They're just saying, "Hey, boss, this is what we need to achieve what you want to achieve," and he's not giving it to them.
Hot Air: "Instead of listening to his generals," Obama acted "to spite them." From a September 22 post by Ed Morrissey on HotAir.com titled, "Obama's Afghanistan strategy: Don't listen to the generals":
During the Iraq War, Democrats ripped George W. Bush for supposedly not listening to his generals about sufficient troop commitments and strategic and tactical decisions in the field. Consider that when reading the Washington Post's report from Bob Woodward's inside look at the stewardship of Barack Obama in the Afghanistan war. Not only did Obama ignore the recommendations of his generals, he wound up writing his own war plan to spite them.
And instead of listening to his generals, particularly Petraeus, who kept saying that the only exit strategy was to defeat the enemy and keep Afghanistan secure, the man with no military experience whatsoever wrote his own doctrine. Petraeus, ironically, wound up having to implement a plan he very much opposed. This sounds closer to the errors of Vietnam than their solution.
Gen. Petraeus: U.S. didn't have the "resources that were necessary" in Afghanistan under Bush but now "we broadly have the inputs right." On the September 15 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, Petraeus told co-host Renée Montagne that "a number of us came out of Iraq in late 2008, the final weeks literally of the Bush administration, the early months of the Obama administration, and recognized that we did not have in place the organizations in some cases, the people, the plans, and above all the resources that were necessary" in Afghanistan. He continued: "[I]t was not until just recently that we have approached the point at which we could say that we broadly have the inputs right."
Petraeus "supported" and "agreed" with Obama's Afghanistan policy. From the June 29 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Petraeus' nomination to be commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan (around 1:02:45):
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So that you're fully supportive of the president's policy, including beginning a transition based upon the conditions on the ground in July of 2011.
PETRAEUS: Let me be very clear if I could, Senator. Not only did I say that I supported it, I said that I agreed with it. This is, again, an agreement that was made back, of course, in the fall of last year, based on projections about conditions that we hoped we'd obtain, that we were going to strive to achieve in Afghanistan a full year from now. So that was, you know, an 18-month or more projection at that time.
As I mentioned in my opening statement, I saw this most importantly as the message of urgency to complement the message of enormous additional commitment. Let's remember that it wasn't just this 30,000 additional forces, the president -- and actually, the previous president had started some deployment of additional forces before he left office. But we started with some 30-, 31,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2009. And we will now be approaching 100,000 by the time of the deployment of the final 30,000. So this is a substantial additional commitment complemented, again, by a message of urgency.
Petraeus: I agree "with the July 2011 date described by the president." During a June 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing (accessed via the Nexis database), Petraeus commented:
REP. BUCK McKEON (R-CA): I just want to reaffirm some of these same things because all of us weren't at the Senate hearing. But Senator Levin asked you, and I quote, "whether or not you continue to support the strategy of the president and continue to support that July 2011 date for the start of reduction in U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
PETRAEUS: I did support and agree at the end of the president's decision-making process last fall with the July 2011 date described by the president as the point at which a process begins to transition security tasks to Afghan forces at a rate to be determined by conditions at that time.
I also agreed with July 2011 as the date at which a responsible drawdown of the surge forces is scheduled to begin at a rate to be determined by conditions at the time. And I did believe there was value in sending a message of urgency, which is how I interpreted July 2011 as -- announced at West Point -- as well as the message of substantial commitment, the considerable additional forces that the president ordered as well as additional civilians' authorization for extra ANSF and additional NATO forces as well.
Adm. Mullen: "[U]sing this strategy ... is still the right decision." During a June 24 Pentagon press conference, Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed that "the military was deeply involved in the development of the president's strategy and signed on to the president's strategy." He later commented: "[G]etting there using this strategy, with everything we understand right now, is still the right decision."
Gates: "[W]e are all on board for ... this gradual process of drawdown in July of 2011." During the same press conference, Gates said: "General Petraeus absolutely agrees with the president's strategy. He agrees with the December review, and he agrees with the timeline to begin a drawdown in July of 2011 that is conditions-based." Gates continued: "I would tell you, as a going-in proposition, we are all on board for beginning this process of -- this gradual process of drawdown in July of 2011. That is the president's decision, and that decision stands as far as all of us are concerned."
Then-Gen. McChrystal said Obama's strategy "enables success." Days after Obama's announcement of his new Afghanistan strategy, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I participated fully in the President's Assessment and decision-making process and was afforded multiple opportunities to provide my recommendations and best military advice -- which I did. Combined with insights and policy considerations from across our Government, I believe the decisions that came from that process reflect a realistic and effective approach." McChrystal went on to say: "The President's decision rapidly resources our strategy, recognizes that the next 18 months will likely be decisive, and ultimately, enables success. I fully support the President's decision. The President has also reiterated how this decision supports our national interests. Rolling back the Taliban is a pre-requisite to the ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda."