Afghan War Casualties Raise Stakes on Troop Debate

PHOTO President Barack Obama holds a strategy review on Afghanistan in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 30, 2009.

Ten American troops were killed this past weekend in Afghanistan ensuring that October will be one of the deadliest months for the U.S. since the beginning of the war, and adding to the pressure on an administration deliberating its Afghan strategy.

"Obviously the president and the first lady send their condolences and are deeply saddened by the combat deaths that we heard about in Afghanistan over the weekend... obviously, the event -- any event that happens in Afghanistan is part of the backdrop of this assessment," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today.

After recommending adding additional troops to Afghanistan, the president's top military commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal spoke publicly against drawing down troops last week in London. Afterwards, the president requested a private meeting with McChrystal aboard Air Force One while in Copenhagen. The White House has tried to downplay the notion that there was any rift between the commander and the president.

"General McChrystal had a chance to spend time with the president on Friday. The president thought it was a very constructive meeting; that General McChrystal was doing, through this assessment, exactly what the president had asked him to do when he hired him to go to Afghanistan and assess where we were," Gibbs said.

But over the weekend, the president's national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said on CNN's "State of the Union", "Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command."

McChrystal wrote in a recent report reviewing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan that additional troops were needed within the next year, or the U.S. effort would "likely result in failure."

Jones said Sunday that the number of troops is just one of the many factors in the current strategy that are important to success in Afghanistan.

"The end is much more complex than just about adding X number of troops," Jones said on CNN. "The key in Afghanistan, as we said back in March, is to have a triad of things happen simultaneously. Security is obviously one reason, one important thing to take care of, but the other two are economic development and good governance in the rule of law and on that score, we have a lot more work to do and a Karzai government is going to have to pitch in and do much better than they have."

Jones said the president was "just now receiving" the number of requested additional troops, but it had not been discussed yet.

"Troops are a portion of the answer, but not the total answer," Jones said on CBS. "Our process is to examine the strategy, make sure we have that right."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said McChrystal's military assessment was only one of many different the president has to consider.

"The president has to make a judgment based not only on the military assessment of his commander on the ground, also the inputs of his diplomats, his ambassadors. He has to look at the military, the security situation. We have NATO partners involved. We also have Pakistan next door, which is critically important to this equation, and the entire global effort to fight and defeat al-Qaeda. The president, as commander in chief, has to look at more than what is happening in a single theater," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Rice disputed the suggestion that the war was not already fully resourced.

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