Will Obama's Top General in Afghanistan Quit?

Yesterday morning, at a meeting of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative, a former top US military officer suggested that General Stanley McChrystal might resign from his post if President Obama doesn't go along with his pending request for more troops for Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Mark T. Kimmitt, a former Bush administration official and Centcom officer, in answer to a question from the panel's moderator, said that he hoped that the differences between the White House and its generals didn't escalate to such a dramatic level. But, he said, if Obama doesn't give McChrystal the resources he needs, then the four-star general might quit. "Most commanders would offer their resignation" if they perceive that the commander-in-chief isn't giving them what they need, he said. In that case, McChrystal might have to say: "I'm not capable of doing it. Maybe somebody else is."

At the conclusion of the panel, I asked Kimmitt about his comments, and he emphasized that he isn't predicting that McChrystal might quit. McChrystal, he said, is presenting Obama with three choices: a maximum option, that would involve up to 40,000 more troops, a middle option, and a low option. Under all three, Kimmitt said, McChrystal believes that he can do the job. On the other hand, if he doesn't get the low option, probably something like an additional 15,000 troops, the general might consider quitting.

Needless to say, the resignation of McChrystal, who's been elevated to near-hero status by the Republican right, would be a frontal challenge to the White House. So far, in a sign that the White House isn't playing patsy for the military, the administration has resisted bringing McChrystal back to Washington to testify, Petraeus-style, before Congress. And they've downplayed the significance of McChrystal's role, saying that his input is just one of many sources that are providing information to the White House as it considers the next phase of its failing Afghanistan strategy.

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