WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Wednesday there will be no quick decision on whether to send more U.S. troops into the widening war in Afghanistan, saying “my determination is to get this right.”
The president’s comments came one day after Adm. Mike Mullen, his top military adviser as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed an increase in U.S. forces as likely necessary to battle a deepening insurgency. The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, also has delivered a grim assessment of the war and is expected to follow up soon with a request for thousands of additional troops.
“I’m going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions,” said Obama, taking questions from reporters as he sat in the Oval Office with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “And so I just want to be absolutely clear, because there’s been a lot of discussion in the press about this: There is no immediate decision pending on resources.”
Even as Obama spoke about a methodical war review, administration officials were briefing key lawmakers on McChrystal’s review and on White House proposals for 46 benchmarks to gauge progress in the stalemated Afghan war and the hunt for al-Qaida in neighboring Pakistan.
The Obama administration’s road map to winning the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on clearing terrorists from Pakistan, according to the list of benchmarks provided to lawmakers.
Stabilizing Pakistan always has been a key part of the administration’s strategy for South Asia. But its prominence in the long-awaited benchmarks for the Afghan war signals a longer regional view than just gauging whether the conflict is being won.
The president has already ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, increasing the U.S. commitment there to 68,000 by year’s end. Yet violence in Afghanistan has soared to record levels. More U.S. troops – 51 – died in Afghanistan in August than in any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001.