A Sharp Elbow Concealed in a Troop Compromise
Ahead of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resource request for the Afghanistan war, which should be finalized today-ish, Defense Secretary Gates is already settling on areas of agreement, such as adding “enabler” assets to the increases in troop levels that President Obama ordered in the spring:
The 2,500 to 3,000 troops include explosive ordnance disposal teams, route clearance teams, medevac units and intelligence specialists needed to combat the growing threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which are the leading cause of death among U.S. forces in the country.
There’s a broad consensus within the administration that such a counter-IED capability is necessary, regardless of troop numbers, and the raised death toll from IEDs underscores the urgency. But Gates’ move underscores to McChrystal who’s in charge here, as does Gates’ comment that the decision on whether McChrystal’s strategic assessment matches administration goals is “outside of General McChrystal’s area of authority.”
That’s a telling indicator of how Gates operates: in the course of giving McChrystal what he wants, the defense secretary indicates that the surest way *not *to get what he wants in the future is to box the administration in. Notice there haven’t been many “we need more troops” quotes leaked in the last couple days from McChrystal’s command.