The New York Times reports that the American military has concluded that the Afghan campaign requires more troops, and the article quotes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen from yesterday’s Meet the Press:
The White House has been concerned about declining support for the war among the American public. After recent polls illustrating the decline, Admiral Mullen and Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired general who is the ambassador to Afghanistan, went on Sunday talk shows to discuss the direction of the mission.
“I’m certainly aware of the criticality of support of the American people for this war and in fact, any war,” Admiral Mullen said on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.” “And so certainly the numbers are of concern. That said, the president’s given me and the American military a mission, and that focuses on a new strategy, new leadership, and we’re moving very much in that direction.”
He said, “I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.”
The best course forward for President Obama is the same course followed by President Bush: Take the advice of the Pentagon leadership and if the advice is unpopular with voters, do your best to explain the policy and encourage support. If you lose confidence in the Pentagon’s leadership, change the leadership, don’t just ignore the advice.
There is no reason for President Obama to have lost confidence in Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus or General McChrystal. Just the opposite in fact. So the president should follow their advice. A war against jihadists cannot be run based on poll numbers, which should mean that the new president will direct that the troops that are deemed necessary by the Pentagon leadership will be deployed.