Eight American troops were killed this weekend in the deadliest assault against U.S. troops in Afghanistan in more than a year, placing growing pressure on an administration deliberating its strategy there amidst waning public support.
After the president's top military commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, recommended in a classified report sending additional troops, and then spoke publicly against withdrawing troops last week in London, the White House downplayed the notion that there was any rift between the commander and the president.
"Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
McChrystal wrote in his report that additional troops were needed within the next year, or the U.S. effort would "likely result in failure."
But Jones said today 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."
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."
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."
Rice disputed the suggestion that the war was not already fully resourced.
"We are fully resourcing it," Rice said on NBC. "We have put in place 21,000 additional troops. They are still completing their deployment. We have increased the number of civilians and we have increased the financial resources to Afghanistan and Pakistan substantially."
The deliberations over strategy come as public support for the war has waned. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 10-12, 51 percent of adults said the war in Afghanistan wasn't worth fighting, up from 41 percent in March.
Rice would not say whether the president was committed to not leaving Afghanistan until it was stable.
Asked three times whether the president was committed to staying in Afghanistan until it became stable, Rice repeated that the president was committed to doing what was essential and necessary to keep America safe.
"I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of this review," she said.