|Among the key players shaping Obama's thinking on Afghanistan is Gates. The defense secretary has repeatedly expressed concern about the size of the military's footprint in Afghanistan even as he has acknowledged that McChrystal's plans have eased that anxiety. |
Some officials charge that the military has been trying to push Obama into a corner with public statements such as those by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious and deteriorating" and "probably needs more forces." One official questioned whether McChrystal had already gone beyond his writ with public statements describing the protection of the Afghan population as more important than killing Taliban fighters.
When Obama announced his strategy in March, there were few specifics fleshing out his broad goals, and the military was left to interpret how to implement them. As they struggle over how to adjust to changing reality on the ground, some in the administration have begun to fault McChrystal for taking the policy beyond where Obama intended, with no easy exit.
But Obama's deliberative pace -- he has held only one meeting of his top national security advisers to discuss McChrystal's report so far -- is a source of growing consternation within the military. "Either accept the assessment or correct it, or let's have a discussion," one Pentagon official said. "Will you read it and tell us what you think?" Within the military, this official said, "there is a frustration. A significant frustration. A serious frustration."
Obama never gave a damn about Iraq or Afghanistan, but how low is the war on his list if he is not listening to the people on the front lines where their main concern are the troops themselves. It is becoming clear that McChrystal was set out there to give Obama an assessment closer to his own views and he didn't get it to use it as an excuse to pull troops fast.
Now the military officials are realizing Obama just doesn't give a damn.