By Tony Romm - 10/18/09 03:27 PM EDT
White House military and defense advisers will meet again this and next
week to discuss a proposed troop increase for Afghanistan, Chief of
Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday.
Although the news that President Barack Obama is still calibrating his Afghanistan strategy is hardly unexpected, it is still likely to frustrate congressional lawmakers, some of whom have recently accused the president of dragging his feet on a troop decision.
"The question, though... does not come [down to] how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services that the Afghan people need?" the chief of staff added.
The debate over Afghanistan reached a crucial juncture last week after independent auditors revealed a staggering number of fraudulent ballots could slim down President Hamid Karzai's margin of victory so much as to trigger a late runoff race against his main opponent, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Reportedly, Karzai does not want to compete in that contest, and some officials are now pushing for a power-sharing government -- but the situation itself has only emboldened Karzai's harshest critics and called into question his government's legitimacy.
Ultimately, Emanuel said on both CNN and CBS' "Face the Nation" that the United States would mostly steer clear of Afghanistan's election negotiations, primarily because the state's future government should be "up to them."
But as that process unfurls, one top Democrat on Sunday suggested the United States withhold committing to any one strategy or troop level in Afghanistan.
"It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don't even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we're working in, with," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) told CNN via satellite from Kabul.
However, Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with the administration's delayed approach to Afghanistan -- a concern Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) echoed on CBS this morning.
Although Cornyn said he recognized the legitimacy of the Afghan government would be an "important component" in the state's reconstruction, he emphasized that the election debacle should not be the "linchpin" in the president's decision to re-tool his Afghan strategy.
"Deliberation is a good thing when it comes to fighting wars, but we've been at war for eight years in Afghanistan," Cornyn said.
"At some point, deliberation begins to look like indecisiveness, which then becomes a way of emboldening our enemies...," the senator added, noting that a wavering process only conveys to our allies a "lack of resolve when it comes to our national security."
Emanuel again rebuffed those criticisms on Sunday, and he blamed the need for such intensive strategy discussions on the Bush administration. The chief of staff also noted the Obama administration was "literally working from scratch," and that any attempt to rush a troop decision without a "thorough analysis" would be "reckless."
"The strategic review of whether to send more troops is only one piece of the puzzle," Emanuel told CBS. "An important piece, but the puzzle is much more complicated than that."