ARLINGTON, Va. – President Barack Obama late last week asked for and received from Defense Secretary Robert Gates a copy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resource request for executing the war in Afghanistan. But the request has not been introduced into the White House’s war sessions that began last week and continued on Wednesday.
The document is the Afghanistan war commander’s follow-on to his earlier strategy assessment, and reportedly contains options calling for increases of 10,000 to 40,000 more troops. The Pentagon for weeks had said that the request would not be considered ahead of the strategy.
As reporters in Washington and Afghanistan pressed for details, Gates two weeks ago decided to keep an original copy of McChrystal’s resource request in his desk, as it was vetted through the chain of command, from McChrystal to the regional Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary and the to the president.
The secretary said then he wanted to draw attention away from McChrystal and would share the document only if the White House deliberations were completed or the president requested it.
But on Wednesday, Gates’ spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a Pentagon briefing that the secretary kept the copy personally in part to avoid leaks to the media. Last month, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post obtained a copy of McChrystal’s strategy assessment and published an “unclassified” version that the Pentagon first vetted with the newspapers editors.
“Normally – listen, we saw what happened, frankly, with the assessment, and the leaks that took place, and I think we wanted to avoid any opportunity for leaking of this before the president had an opportunity to see it himself,” Morrell said.
Morrell called the resource request that Gates handed to the president an “informal copy”, saying the “formal copy” was still rising through the chain of command and would include comments from those commanders when it was handed to the White House.
But Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs, and the secretary all have seen the raw original, according to Morrell.
“Ultimately, it means, frankly, nothing until there is a decision made about the way ahead. So all this work can happen, perhaps, for naught, depending on what the direction is that’s provided by the president and his team,” he said.
Morrell would not confirm if that leak to Woodward was under investigation.