This Editor will not speculate on the what the decision of the POTUS will be in the case of providing the tools and resources that General McChrystal needs or not. This Editor does make clear that it is the right decision is to do so, based on the rhetoric of the campaign trail, but more importantly on moral responsibility. And we are far from alone in what we do not consider to be a point of opinion, at all.
Some things are solely the purview of politicians, to include the words used to describe their actions (or inaction) or the ties to allied and enemy Nations, their diplomats, and their politicians. Examples of that include the last eight years of alliance with Pakistan, which has had to take into account not only its own sovereignity, but the perception of the same by its people. "Perception is reality" even when reality is far different than perception. Many things happened in that realm, quietly, to avoid the propaganda realities of the enemy to influence perception.
There is a long list of references (though incomplete) at the end of this post to demonstrate the positions of various players and this editor in the overriding question of "How much time do you need to assess whether or not to support the needs of General McChrystal, the man YOU sent to do a job?" It's been more than a month, already.
But when any "boss" sends a man to do a job, it is incumbent moral responsibility to give him the tools to successfully complete the tasks assigned. While General McChrystal's request alone can not be the only factor, his opinion of what he needs to do the job assigned him by the POTUS and Congress (they voted to send him there) must be given the most weight, say 40% of the weight for the decision.
Why would he not be given everything he says he needs outright? Because it may not be available. It may be needed elsewhere. General McChrystal is in the best position to know what is needed based on the situation on the ground, but he's not necessarily in the best position to know if it's available. Having just left a job at the Pentagon, he probably has a good idea though.
The next greatest weight goes to General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen, the latter of which will use the information provided him by the G1's, DoD level Generals in charge of Personnel, and G4's, DoD level Generals in charge of Logistics. There is a General in the Air Force (whose name I'm too lazy to look up) whose role is to know the capabilities of moving people and equipment around the globe, to include knowing the maintenance level of our current fleet of aircraft that can do so and what missions those assets are currently tasked with.
That General prioritizes what ships where and when projected out for a great deal of time and is the guy that Admiral Mullen would consult in finding out if things can be re-prioritized and from where to where to get General McChrystal more boots on the Ground and how soon.
Another General or four are in charge of knowing exactly how many Troops are already committed, how many can be committed today, and how many can be committed on June 1st 2010 to battle somewhere in the world. He's probably been consulted prior to the decisions to have units flown from Baghdad to Bagram this year and was probably the one that made the decision to change the destination of other National Guard Troops as they reached their mobilization sites. Whoever this guy is (or should I say his predecessors) was the reason, I, like so many Veterans and Troops developed the motto that we know where we're going when we step off the plane.
We don't hear too much about those Generals because their job isn't all that sexy and because they give that information to their bosses which includes Admiral Mullen. They were the ones that gave General Pace the information, the bad news, that to meet critical needs in 2006 & 2007, he'd need to order combat tours to be lengthened to 15 & 18 months.
Between the recommendations of General McChrystal, General Petraeus, and Admiral Mullen (based on the input of those above and others at the Pentagon), 90% of the decision of if should be decided. The same set of Professional Military Leaders can also answer the question of how soon. Secretary of Defense Gates would certainly have input, but his should be based on those of the Generals and Admirals.
Of weight also must be the leaders of Afghanistan (or the country in question) and allies in the fight. The amount of weight given their input may be different based on the situation. Clearly the input of Saddam in 2003 Iraq would be necessarily less than Karzai in 2009 or Jaffari and al-Malik in 2007 Iraq.
The weight of the input of these leaders would be heavier if allied with and in opposition to the General than if in support of the General. Why? If an allied leader opposes more Troops, there may be local reasons for that, that do have political implications for his ability to continue the alliance, but if he wants more Troops in his Nation, it may not necessarily be because they're needed for security reasons.
The POTUS has a moral responsibility to listen to the Generals. Generals are required to act in an apolitical manner, by law. Retired Generals often maintain that apolitical nature, but are not required to do so. General Powell was one of the few that was able to enter civilian politics after retirement while maintaining most of his apolitical nature.
Others do not. General Jones, General Shinseki, & General Clark all became active campaigners for a party. General Schwarkopf, on the other hand, stated that "a benefit of retirement is the right to keep his opinions to himself and his mouth shut." Too often, retired Generals (and other officers) become enamored with their new role as "experts" or talking heads on TV.
Some walk the line between their areas of expertise and arenas changed since their time in uniform or completely outside their experience. Some become political pundits and partisan politicians. The responsible General/Officer in retirement will be respectful to the Commander on the Ground, as he would have wanted when it was him. We have already seen General McKiernan fired for the wrong reasons, i.e. because he refused to parrot the party lines.
The partisan political advisors of the POTUS should have the least weight in this decision, perhaps 1%, perhaps enough to tip the balance if the experts, the real experts, are evenly divided. This includes or perhaps is expanded by political appointees in the arena of diplomacy.
While Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State and Richard Holbrooke is "Special Envoy" to "AfPak," they are first partisan politicians, and secondly diplomats. That they are connected to various degrees to the Administration means that they can have greater influence in their roles, but also that their "objectivity" is diminished compared to career diplomats. Some political insiders are better able to divorce party from position than others. The degree of weight of diplomats changes to the degree of that separation, but their role is also to re-inforce the positions of the Chief Executive of the United States in discussions with or about Sovereign Nations, regardless of what advice they gave him.
That role is seen in other of these players as well, but to a lesser extent and after the fact by Professionals in their Field, than in political appointees. An example is the endorsement of POTUS decisions by Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates concerning the DoD Budget and equipment procurement.
Did I mention the input of other politicians? The weight of their calls should be small. 2007 saw a demonstration that they were more than willing to speak from a position of party, without regard for reality, without regard for the best interests of the Nation, and with an arrogant attitude of what a few hours on the ground (if any) meant towards their "expertise." Since Congressmen are not held responsible for the results of their rhetoric, they engage their flapping jaws before they engage reality or experts on the matter. They cannot be totally disregarded in such matters, but they need to be reined in by citizens, veterans, and the POTUS, who is responsible for the decision, most notably when they are of his party.
With the situation in Iraq much more stable as of 2008 and 2009, the campaign promise of the POTUS to provide all necessary resources to further stabilize the situation in Afghanistan should be a non-event. He was elected in part based on his emphasis on it. His party endorsed the position that Afghanistan was the "Just War."
So, what have the major inputs said concerning a Troop Increase in Afghanistan:
Afghan Ambassador to US: Commit to Victory, Send More Troops 10/15/2009
UK Plans 5% Increase in Afghan Troop Levels, Conditionally 10/14/2009
President Karzai: More US Troops Welcome, Should be Decided by Professionals 10/13/2009
Administration Backtracks On 13,000 Troop Increase 10/13/2009
Obama Quarter Steps on McChrystal Needs 10/13/2009
"Frontline" on Tactics/Troop Strength in Afghanistan 10/13/2009
SecState Clinton: Afghan Policy Unchanged 10/12/2009
Obama Considers Change in Afghan Policy 9/1/2009
ADM Mullen: Time/Patience/Commitment Required to Win 9/15/2009
Democrats Divided Over Support of General McChrystal
WOTN OpEd 9/17 More Troops in Afghanistan?
POTUS urges patience following Adm Mullen statement More Troops likely needed 9/16/09
Obama: Main Goal in Afghanistan is to prevent it again becoming base of terror 9/22/09 (as General McChrystal request for 40,000 troops first surfaced)
General Nicholoson: More Troops Could Turn Tide (5/12/2009) (On Troop Increase in South Afghanistan, his AO)
FY 2009: DoD Recruiting Met Decreased Goals 10/14/2009 (Why decreased goals? Fewer Recruits will have an effect on capability to increase Troop levels. Authorized Troop Strength of US Military determined by Congress, led by Sen Harry Reid & Rep Nancy Pelosi for more than 3 years now.)
Supporting the Drawdown in Iraq 10/16/2009 (This simultaneously increases Troops Available and potentially increases demands on airlift capabilities.)
US Military Cancels Deployment of Army Brigade to Iraq 10/17/2009 (3,500 Troops available for duty and already projected for transportation to combat)
80,000 Troops & Equipment to be Drawn Down from Iraq by Sep2010 8/29/2009 (Some of that equipment is already slated for Afghanistan, while this affords a total of 80,000 Troops not deployed, minus those numbers already increased into Afghanistan but not including those flown straight from Iraq to Afghanistan and those already drawn down.)
ADM Mullen: Generals Petraeus, McChrystal, Rodriguez, Admiral Stavridis "The Best Leaders" we have 9/17/09
82nd, Other Units Extended in Afghanistan or Sent back Early (9/3/2009)