Examining Obama's Afghan Options
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MADELEINE BRAND, Host:
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly has been tracking all of this. She's here now. And Mary Louise, we've been talking a lot about that report from General McChrystal. Is that really the catalyst now for a change in thinking?
MARY LOUISE KELLY: I think so. And the reason is that the McChrystal report, the message of that report is that the current approach with the current troop levels are working. That if you really want to pull off a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, it's going to require a lot more resources. Hence, the current debate underway here in Washington.
BRAND: And a lot more troops, he says. So, let's walk through this and start with the goal. President Obama has announced a very specific goal for the war and is that now being rethought?
LOUISE KELLY: And I wanted to listen to him. Here, he was speaking over the weekend on NBC. He had just talked about going after al-Qaida, and he was talking about the best way to do that.
BARACK OBAMA: If supporting the Afghan national government and building capacity for their army and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move forward. But if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face.
LOUISE KELLY: So, President Obama there at least opening the door, it sounds like, to possibly a different approach.
BRAND: And Mary Louise, what would that look like?
LOUISE KELLY: In essence, think about scaling back the involvement instead of deepening it, which is what we understand General McChrystal is asking for. Now, is the president actually leaning that way? We don't know. And I will say, a note of caution here that the White House official I spoke to today said, unlikely. That would be a real reversal that this - that the president is not closing any doors to anything at this point. But that would be such a radical reversal that it doesn't sound like it's probably in the cards at this point.
BRAND: So, what about some sort of middle-grounds and some troops but not as many as, say, 40,000?
LOUISE KELLY: Sure. And then perhaps keep the door open to further increases at some point down the road. And there are other questions at play here. The question, it's not just, do you send more troops, but what kind of troops? Do you send more combat troops? Do you send more trainers? That's really a critical question here is the question of U.S. forces training Afghan security forces. And, you know, how bigger role Afghan security forces are ready to play in securing their own country at this point is a big factor in all of these decisions.
BRAND: And we'll hear more about that in a moment. And quickly, when do we expect a decision on troop levels and the overall strategy?
LOUISE KELLY: Weeks, not months, we think. President Obama says he wants to take his time. These are big decisions. On the other hand, General McChrystal says, we don't have that much time. He said specifically in his report, if we don't turn this thing around quickly, 12 months from now, we might not be able to - the U.S. might not be able to. So, I think we'll probably see a decision sooner rather than later.
BRAND: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thank you.
LOUISE KELLY: You're welcome, Madeleine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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