- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said in a confidential report that without additional forces, the war against insurgents there will end in failure, The Washington Post reported Monday.

McChrystal’s grim assessment of the war was published on the Post’s Web site, with some portions withheld at the government’s request.

“Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating,” McChrystal wrote in his summary.

The report was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August and is now under review by President Barack Obama, who is trying to decide whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

While asking for more troops, McChrystal also pointed out “the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy.” The U.S. needs to interact better with the Afghan people, McChrystal said, and better organize its efforts with NATO allies.

The Pentagon and the White House are awaiting a separate, more detailed request for additional troops and resources. Media reports Friday and Saturday said McChrystal has finished it but was told to pocket it, partly because of the charged politics surrounding the decision. McChrystal’s senior spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the report is not complete.

“The resource request is being finalized and will be sent forward to the chain of command at some point in the near future,” Smith said from Afghanistan.

Obama denied asking McChrystal to sit on the request, but he gave no deadline for making a decision about whether to send more Americans into harm’s way.

Obama said in a series of television interviews broadcast Sunday that he will not allow politics to govern his decision. He left little doubt he is re-evaluating whether more forces will do any good.

“The first question is, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’” Obama said. “Are we pursuing the right strategy?”

The war has taken on a highly partisan edge. Senate Republicans are demanding an influx of forces to turn around a war that soon will enter its ninth year, while members of Obama’s own party are trying to put on the brakes.

“No, no, no, no,” Obama responded when asked whether he or aides had directed McChrystal to temporarily withhold a request for additional U.S. forces and other resources.

“The only thing I’ve said to my folks is, ‘A, I want an unvarnished assessment, but, B, I don’t want to put the resource question before the strategy question,’” Obama said. “Because there is a natural inclination to say, ‘If I get more, then I can do more.’”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last week he expected McChrystal’s request for additional forces and other resources “in the very near future.”

Other military officials had said the request would go to McChrystal’s boss, Gen. David Petraeus, and up the chain of command in a matter of weeks. The White House discounted that timeline, but has remained vague about how long it would take to receive the report and act on it.

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