The McChrystal/Eikenberry Hearings Begin: Hey, Who’s the President Again
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services committee, told Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry that he’s been “long anticipating your testimony today.” An uncertain ally of the Obama administration on Afghanistan, Skelton nevertheless praises the president for the extended troop surge and for “convey[ing] his commitment” to addressing the threat from al-Qaeda-allied insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Turning to the differences between the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and the 2009 extended surge in Afghanistan, “I don’t think such comparisons are wise are fair,” Skelton said, since “the increase ordered by the president in [troops] Afghanistan is much greater than in Iraq … “I do not have any doubt that we must succeed in Afghanistan,” Skelton said, and “that the new strategy provides a path to success.”
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the GOP ranking member, chided President Obama for “lacking a clear authoritative voice” during the weeks-long strategy review. But with “your testimony today,” he said, “I believe we have finally turned a corner” in the debate. “You, Gen. McChrystal, Ambassador Eikenberry … will demonstrate the will of this mission to defeat al-Qaeda, route the Taliban and conclude the mission … You, gentlemen, will have the pen … today, you will write the next chapter … Washington must step aside and let Kabul” take charge. Well, there’s our answer: McKeon is pretending that McChrystal and not Obama is the president of the United States. “Nowhere in your assessment did I see discussion of a date certain for withdrawal,” McKeon added, which is a curious way to describe the July 2011 “strategic inflection point” to begin transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan police and army.