At the bottom of Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s deeply reported story about why Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen relieved Gen. David McKiernan from his command in Afghanistan is this bit of insight into some of the value added by the 60-day strategy review recently completed by (mostly) Washington think-tankers for McKiernan’s replacement, Gen. Stanley McChrystal:
The experts gave McChrystal a 20-page draft report that calls for expanding the Afghan army, changes in the way troops operate and an intensified military effort to root out corruption. There were few revolutionary ideas in the document, but McChrystal may have received something far more important through the process: allies in the U.S. capital, on the political left and right, to talk about the need for more troops in Afghanistan — in advance of his assessment to Gates, which will probably be submitted this month.
I noted at the time that the vast majority of experts assembled for the review are not primarily Afghanistan experts. But they are security experts held in the highest esteem by Democrats and Republicans on the congressional armed services committees and by Beltway journalists. As Chandrasekaran’s piece makes clear, retaining public and congressional support for the Afghanistan war was a high priority for Gates and Mullen even before support for the war began to erode, and a criterion for the new commander had to be an ability to sell the war in Washington.
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