On Wednesday, President Obama announced that he will be withdrawing 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the remaining 23,000 "surge" troops by the end of next summer, leaving 68,000 troops to be withdrawn gradually until combat operations end in 2015. The decision was the product of lengthy deliberations within the Administration and since Obama delivered his speech announcing the new plan on Wednesday night, reports have been trickling out of the White House describing where his key officials stand. We've collected the reports so far.
SUPPORT WITH RESERVATIONS
- Admiral Mike Mullen: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is retiring this fall, told a House committee on Thursday that Obama's timetable--which would remove a third of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of next summer--is "more aggressive" and incurs "more risk" than he "was originally prepared to accept." He added, however, that the risks were "manageable" and that the U.S. "would have run other kinds of risks by keeping more forces in Afghanistan longer. We would have made it easier for the Karzai administration to increase their dependency on us." While Mullen said he ultimately supports the plan, the AP believes his comments "made clear" that Obama "rejected the advice of his generals."
- General David Petraeus: In a Senate hearing on his nomination to become C.I.A. director, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that while Obama's approach was "more aggressive" than he and other commanders recommended, "this is not something I think where one hangs up the uniform in protest." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Andrew Malcolm at the Los Angeles Times thinks the general's "candid answers ... confirming latent suspicions, will endure in the political debate, especially if Taliban and al-Qaeda forces bide their time awaiting the announced pullout and either hold off allied progress or even reverse it."