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Levin on McChrystal’s Strategy Review

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) read the McChrystal strategy review before Bob Woodward put it on The Washington Post’s frontpage, and among the thing he’s tried to do for the past two weeks is play up Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s emphasis on what McChrystal calls “radically expanded and embedded partnering” with Afghan forces as a way to forestall a U.S. troop increase. That position ran into some serious opposition last week from Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who flatly embraced sending more troops to Afghanistan during his renomination hearing, and suggested that it was unrealistic to expect increased security while relying too heavily on an immature Afghan security apparatus.

So now Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has put out a statement reacting to the release of the strategy review. It doesn’t sound like Mullen has persuaded him. He hugs both McChrystal and his Afghan-force proposals tightly:

I agree with General McChrystal that “success is achievable” in Afghanistan, that “stability in Afghanistan is an imperative” for our national security, and that there is “the urgent need for a significant change in our strategy and the way that we think and operate.”

Perhaps the most important judgment General McChrystal has made – one with which I wholeheartedly agree – is that “focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely.” Indeed, General McChrystal has gone so far as to say that “without a new strategy, the mission should not be resourced.”

While I agree that the resource question should not now be our focus, I also agree with General McChrystal that additional resources will be required.

My recommendation is that in filling those resource requirements, we should emphasize expanding the size and capability of the Afghan army and national police; providing the intelligence, surveillance and other support that Afghan forces require; providing many more trainers and increasing even further the cooperation between Afghan and U.S. troops; and a crash program to better equip Afghan forces, including the transfer of a significant amount of equipment that is now in Iraq to Afghanistan rather than back to the United States. We must also speed the adoption of a “Sons of Iraq” approach to peel low- and mid-level Afghan fighters away from the insurgency and re-integrate them into Afghan society.

General McChrystal is attempting to shift our focus toward adopting a revised strategy that will increase the prospects for success of our efforts in Afghanistan. Focusing on the resource question before we accomplish the strategic shift is a mistake General McChrystal is wisely avoiding.

Of course, Mullen wasn’t trying to persuade Levin. He was trying to get Levin to* back down*. Levin clearly isn’t. Mullen likely won’t either.

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