McChrystal tells lawmakers Obama engaged in "thoughtful process" on request for more troops
By Paul Kane
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told a group of key congressmen Thursday that President Obama was engaged in a "thoughtful process" of deciding on his request for additional troops in the region.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), in a telephone interview from Afghanistan, said that McChrystal declined to criticize Obama's nearly three month review of the general's request to send up to 40,000 more troops into the war-torn nation. Instead, McChrystal - whose opinion has been treated as sacrosanct by many Republicans - told the group that the U.S. forces could still achieve the mission of routing the Taliban.
"He believed that the mission was accomplishable," Price said after meeting the general and other top U.S. officials Thursday in Kabul. Some of the lawmakers pressed McChrystal on Obama's lengthy process, but the general described it as a "thoughtful process and wouldn't go any further," Price said. "I was a little surprised he didn't voice frustration with the delay."
Price is with a congressional delegation of Georgians, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and Reps. John Barrow (D) and Lynn Westmoreland (R). The lawmakers also visited U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry.
The visit could serve as an early bellwether of how much support Obama can hope to receive from congressional Republicans when he makes his announcement about the next phase of the war in Afghanistan Tuesday night at West Point.
During the eight years of the Bush administration, GOP support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was nearly universal. Despite their decided minority status in the House and Senate, Republicans could be key to Obama's effort to send what could be an additional 30,000 to 35,000 more U.S. soldiers into the battlefield because of waning support among Democrats.
Price is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 100 conservatives. No ally of the White House on any key issue so far this year, Price's support of the new effort in Afghanistan would signal that a large number of Republicans would back Obama, but the lawmaker remains undecided until he hears the specifics of the president's plan next week.
Price said he wants the president to voice full-throated support for the effort to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. "Then he'll have the full backing and support of the Republican conference," Price said.
He said it would be a "disaster" if, in sending more troops there, Obama also sent a signal that they would be coming home shortly if the mission is not successful immediately, because that would let the Taliban think they could wait out Obama and then take up the battle once the U.S. and NATO forces leave.
Price's biggest complaint has been the amount of time that Obama has taken in reaching a decision, beginning when McChrystal submitted his report on Aug. 30. He thinks that the time it has taken to reach the decision has been time that troops could be on the ground already in battle. "The president has taken more time than is necessary. Maybe that will be time well spent," Price said.
November 26, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
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