McChrystal’s Testimony: (Probably) Week of Dec. 7
It’s been one of the most anticipated moments of the Afghanistan debate in Washington: when the commander of U.S. and NATO forces will testify before Congress about the Obama administration’s strategy. Recall that earlier this fall, Republican members tried to bring Gen. Stanley McChrystal to the Hill ahead of President Obama’s decision in an attempt to create a political problem for the president, even bringing an ultimately futile amendment to a defense bill to compel McChrystal’s return to Washington up for a vote. But Obama will announce his adjusted strategy in a Tuesday evening speech at West Point, and since Defense Secretary Robert Gates promised McChrystal would testify before Congress soon after the announcement, it’s worth asking when the general will explain his counterinsurgency-based approach to implementing the strategy.
According to sources on the Hill, the Pentagon and in Kabul, the tentative answer is the week after this one. While there will be a round of Afghanistan testimony in the armed services committees on Wednesday with Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, McChrystal is right now not expected to be part of those hearings. While all caution that more specifics will be announced imminently, and it remains possible that McChrystal might be summoned to Washington earlier, McChrystal is currently scheduled to spend the latter part of this week in discussions with Afghanistan government officials about the strategy, ahead of a crucial meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. McChrystal is scheduled to attend that meeting, in which NATO allies will be pressed to contribute thousands of new troops to implement the general’s plans. On his Facebook page, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general who backs a fulsome counterinsurgency campaign, reiterated his call for European member-states to “follow suit when the US sends more troops to Afghanistan” at the ministerial.
Everyone involved cautions that plans are not yet final, and I’ll update when the official schedules are finalized. But it’s hard not to be reminded of Gen. David Petraeus’ marathon 2007 testimony about the progress of the Iraq surge. There are important differences here: McChrystal will be mostly explaining the implementation of a revised and adjusted strategy rather than the progress of an existing one, for instance. But as the left grows increasingly restless with Afghanistan strategy and the right seeks to use McChrystal as a cudgel against Obama, the political overtones will probably be similarly intense.