White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday dodged concerns that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recent criticisms of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan signified a rift between the president and his mission commander on the ground.
Instead, Gibbs stressed that "the process was working" -- but he would not say when President Barack Obama would announce whether he plans to deploy additional troops to the war-torn state.
"What I'm trying to tell you is I think there was a positive discussion among all those involved about an assessment and going forward and how to get the strategy right," Gibbs said during Monday's press briefing."The president had a very constructive meeting [with the general] about whats going on in Afghanistan, not what's going on on cable television."
Added Gibbs about McChrystal's criticisms, "I don't think it detracts from [the decision process]"
Both lawmakers and military officers, it seems, are growing frustrated with the Obama administration's effort to reconfigure its Afghanistan strategy, which Gibbs described Monday as an open-ended process. Republicans have increasingly called for Obama to stop dragging its feet and deploy additional forces to Afghanistan, much as Gen. McChrystal has previously suggested. Democrats, by contrast, have asked the administration to consider reducing its troop footprint and focus more on counter-terrorism.
But that debate grew more intense last week, after McChrystal said during a speech in London that any strategy other than a troop increase would turn Afghanistan into "Chaos-istan." He also called the counter-insurgency idea "short sighted" -- a comment that a few White House officials quickly rebuked.
Gibbs, however, stayed mum on the matter on Monday, and only said of the administration's Afghanistan discussions that withdrawal was "not part of the conversation." He also expressed optimism that Obama's scheduled meeting on Tuesday with congressional leaders would prove helpful.
"It's not going to happen until Congress signs off," the press secretary said. "I think the president wants to hear from Democrats and Republicans, members of the Senate and the House, on what their views are... they're an important part of [this process], and he wants to hear from them."