In one of the most bizarre episodes of the on-going contradictory claims between the White House and the Pentagon on a possible troop escalation in Afghanistan, a top CENTCOM commander in a "wide-ranging" interview granted to the St. Petersburg Times, days before the president is scheduled to make a speech on the issue, all but announced a massive escalation. The article is headlined "CentCom planners study massive move of equipment to Afghanistan."
This is during a month in which administration officials have accused generals of attempting to force the president's decision, and less a week after administration officials said the president was still engaged in information-gathering and personal deliberations.
"Tensions between the White House and the Pentagon over the deployment have already bubbled to the surface. Senior presidential advisers have accused generals of leaking the misinformation that Mr Obama has all but decided to dispatch more than 34,000 additional troops, in a bid to force his decision"
In the interview, Major General Kenneth Dowd, who reports directly to CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, blabs:
"This is probably the most complicated logistical operation we've done in our lifetime."
Dowd said landlocked Afghanistan presents greater difficulties than Iraq with its fewer routes of supply, and that CentCom is conducting an assessment of air strips in Afghanistan. Dowd said engineers will have to expand them.
"I'm a little concerned about" airfield capacity...We've got to expand and make it better."
The leak and spin wars over what the president will announce poked through the surface in early November when, in response to reporters' questions about an all-but-certain escalation, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that anybody who says Obama has made a decision:
"doesn't have in all honesty the slightest idea what they're talking about. The president's yet to make a decision" about troop levels or other aspects of the revised U.S. strategy in Afghanistan."
The next week, the AP floated an article quoting "anonymous," "unauthorized" military officials giving a number in the 30 thousands of more troops as the decision Obama has made.
"Administration officials said Obama has not made a final decision about the number of troops he would approve. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the president's plans, said they expected the total to be between 32,000 and 35,000."
Professor Rick Ayers writing for Huffington Post in "General McChrystal's War" said:
McChrystal's recent leaks and public comments have pushed the limits of their PR strategy...In the end, the military (not the troops, mind you, but the officers and the massive military industrial complex behind them) need war and promote it.
It began in September when Army General Stanley McChrystal's classified report that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating was leaked, which put pressure on Obama to agree to McChrystal's request for more troops.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment
Obama, during his presidential campaign, at a time when there were around 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan, promised to send in "at least two or three additional combat brigades," or about 10,000 more troops. Since then troop strength has reached 62,000. In The Nation in December of 2008, well before Obama's inauguration, Richard Dreyfuss wrote: