Obama considering scaled-down Afghan war plan
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is considering a scaled-down version of the war plan advanced by his top Afghanistan commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. officials say.
Such a narrowed military mission would increase American forces to accomplish the commander’s broadest goals of protecting Afghan cities and key infrastructure. But with fewer troops, the strategy likely would cut back on McChrystal’s ambitious objectives, amounting to what one official described as “McChrystal Light.”
Senior White House officials Wednesday stressed, however, that the president has not settled on any new troop numbers and continues to debate other strategic approaches to the 8-year-old Afghanistan war. The officials say Obama has not yet settled on the narrowed option or any other as his final choice for how to overhaul the war effort.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because Obama has not announced his decision, said the troop numbers probably would be lower than McChrystal’s preference, at least at the outset. The officials did not divulge exact numbers.
A stripped-down approach would signal caution in widening a war that is going worse this year than last despite intense U.S. attention and an additional 21,000 U.S. forces sent there on Obama’s watch.
Fourteen Americans were killed Monday in Afghanistan in two helicopter crashes, and roadside bombings Tuesday left eight U.S. troops dead. October has been the worst month for U.S. fatalities since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001.
Under the pared-down option, McChrystal would be given fewer forces than the 40,000 additional troops he has asked for atop the current U.S. force of 68,000, officials told The Associated Press. The option still would adopt the commander’s overall goals for a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at turning the corner against the Taliban next spring.
That approach would reflect a shift in thinking about what parts of the war mission are most important and the intense political domestic debate over Afghan policy.