Fox News Sunday falsely portrays military as uniformly behind sending more troops to Afghanistan

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Fox News' Chris Wallace presented the military as uniformly behind U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal's reported request for additional military forces, opposed only by civilian administration officials such as Vice President Joe Biden. But the Army chief of staff and other military officials have reportedly expressed doubts about sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Wallace sets up debate over troop increase as Mullen, McChrystal, and Petraeus vs. Biden and unnamed others

From the September 27 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Let me -- let's talk, Charles, about the merits of this debate. You've got McChrystal; you've got General [David] Petraeus, the author of the surge and now the head of Central Command; you've got Admiral [Mike] Mullen, who is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all apparently support a beefed-up counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, what McChrystal is calling for, like a surge in Iraq.

And then you have on the other side -- and not just him, but Joe Biden, who wants a scaled-back presence on the ground, and more counter-terrorism, as Mara was saying: drones, Special Forces over the border in Afghan -- in Pakistan. Who's right?

Military officials reportedly have concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan

NY Times: "[T]he military is not monolithic in support"; Army chief of staff, Powell "concern[ed]," "expressed skepticism." A September 27 New York Times article reported, "As President Obama weighs sending more troops to Afghanistan, one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, he has discovered that the military is not monolithic in support of the plan and that some of the civilian advisers he respects most have deep reservations." The Times article further reported that McChrystal's request "has reignited a longstanding debate within the military about the virtues of the counterinsurgency strategy popularized by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq and now embraced by General McChrystal, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan." The article went on to report:

General McChrystal is expected to ask for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the eight-year-old war, a number that has generated concern among top officers like Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who worry about the capacity to provide more soldiers at a time of stress on the force, officials said.

The competing advice and concerns fuel a pivotal struggle to shape the president's thinking about a war that he inherited but may come to define his tenure. Among the most important outside voices has been that of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired four-star Army general, who visited Mr. Obama in the Oval Office this month and expressed skepticism that more troops would guarantee success. According to people briefed on the discussion, Mr. Powell reminded the president of his longstanding view that military missions should be clearly defined.

[...]

Admiral Mullen has endorsed the idea of more troops and will be at the table representing the military. General McChrystal and ambassadors from the region will get a chance to participate in meetings with the president through a secure video hookup.

Other officers, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and say they admire General McChrystal nonetheless, have privately expressed doubt that additional troops will make a difference. Others question the broader impact of such a buildup on the overall armed forces. [New York Times, 9/27/2009]

McClatchy: Pentagon "sharply divided" with "much, but not all, of the uniformed military lined up behind" McChrystal. "The Pentagon itself is sharply divided over what to do, said several defense officials who weren't authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, with much, but not all, of the uniformed military lined up behind Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. McChrystal wrote the leaked memo, but top policy advisers such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy oppose his plan. Some senior officers also are concerned that sending more troops to Afghanistan would add to the already severe strains on an Army and Marine Corps from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." ["More U.S. troops to Afghanistan? Obama's caught in a vise," McClatchy Newspapers, 9/21/2009]

Transcript

From the September 27 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Let me -- let's talk, Charles, about the merits of this debate. You've got McChrystal; you've got General Petraeus, the author of the surge and now the head of Central Command; you've got Admiral Mullen, who is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all apparently support a beefed-up counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, what McChrystal is calling for, like a surge in Iraq.

And then you have on the other side -- and not just him, but Joe Biden, who wants a scaled-back presence on the ground, and more counter-terrorism, as Mara was saying: drones, Special Forces over the border in Afghan -- in Pakistan. Who's right?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, you've got the Sage of Wilmington, the man who wanted Iraq split into three, arguing for a surgical strike policy. Here is the irony and the problem: McChrystal is the world's expert on this. He conducted exactly these surgical strikes, the late-night raids on Al Qaeda in Iraq for four years. If there is anybody who knows this -- and he was extremely successful, he killed hundreds of bad guys -- if there's anybody on the planet who knows how to do it, who knows all about it, knows its potential and limitations, it's McChrystal. And he's the guy who says it can't be done. He's the guy who says, unless we have the counter-insurgency strategy, boots on the ground, protect the population, like the surge in Iraq, we will not succeed. So when I hear the vice president, with his vast experience in this area, give the counterargument, I think I know which way I want to go.

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know why the need to sort of insult Vice President Biden. The man was head of Foreign Relations, he has extensive, in fact, experience in this arena. But I would point out that this is a moment when you need to take stock -- I disagree with [panelist] Dana [Perino] this isn't about repudiating the counterinsurgency strategy, I think the president is saying let's look at this. The only voices that you're hearing, the only voices that appeared on the screen a minute ago, were voices from the defense, military, saying yes, we want more boots on the ground. They always want more boots on the ground. They want to overwhelm. I mean, go back to the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force. But what you're hearing from Vice President Biden and -- you might not like this, but the politics here come into play, the politics of the moment from the American people is we are war-weary after what took place in Iraq. So let's make sure --

WALLACE We were war-weary in Iraq, and the surge --

WILLIAMS: Exactly.

WALLACE: -- ended up turning things around.

WILLIAMS: Right. But the question is, are the American people going to support this -- remember, we've been in Afghanistan eight years. What do we have to show for it? Look at the history of other countries that have gone into Afghanistan and tried to do what we're talking about. It's not a happy picture. So the question is, is President Obama content in sending, as he just said, young people into that arena with any confidence to say to their parents, "This is something we are committed to over time"? This is a war we've got to win. We've got to beat back the Taliban, because the Taliban re-establishes --

WALLACE: And are you convinced counter-terrorism -- General Williams, are you convinced that counter-terrorism -- no, I'm not making fun of you, but are you convinced that counter-terrorism is going to win?

WILLIAMS: The counter-terrorism --

WALLACE: As opposed to counter-insurgency.

WILLIAMS: No, I'm not convinced anyone would win, but -- any one of those strategies. But I think it's good that the president would stop at this juncture instead of simply saying, "Yes, send 40,000 more people into that theater." No, let's stop and think because everybody's talking Vietnam as the analogy of the moment. Are we simply going to say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, just unload with troops"?

WALLACE: I will try again. Final 20 seconds, Mr. Krauthammer.

KRAUTHAMMER: But agonizing in public is not a correct response. If he wants to end the war or leave the war, he should explain it and do it. But agonizing and mulling in public with our allies wavering and people on the ground wondering about our policy is the worst way to go about it.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Afghanistan
Network/Outlet
FOX Broadcasting Company
Person
Chris Wallace
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday
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