Report: More U.S. Troops Needed In Afghanistan

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The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan is painting a grim picture of the war in a confidential report. According to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal says without additional forces, the war will end in failure.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Renee Montagne is away this week.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has essentially given you a choice: send more U.S. troops or the mission could ultimately end in failure. That dire prediction comes in a confidential report by General Stanley McChrystal. It's now on the hands of President Obama. The report was obtained by the Washington Post and is being published at a time when opposition to the war is growing in Congress.

We're going to talk this morning about the report and what it means. We're joined now by NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Tom, Good morning.

TOM BOWMAN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Anybody surprised that General McChrystal wants more troops?

BOWMAN: There's nothing surprising here at all, as you said that McChrystal says he needs more forces or this eight-year effort to turn around the insurgency in Afghanistan will fail. He also talks about an Afghan government riddled with corruption. And he also says the Taliban insurgency is very strong, uses modern propaganda, is even reaching into Afghanistan's prison to recruit new members.

INSKEEP: Although, of course the implications are huge - there are already 68,000 troops approved for Afghanistan. They're either there or on the way. Thousands more have been added this year. How many more does General McChrystal say he needs?

BOWMAN: Well, he doesn't say how many he needs in this report. This is an overall assessment of how things were going in the counterinsurgency led by the United States. There's a separate report that he has completed that will call for additional troops. We're told that there were various options for the number of troop levels. Maybe even as many as 40,000 troops will be needed again. But that report has not been sent to Washington yet. It is completed and we expect that to come - could be this week or very, very soon.

INSKEEP: Members of Congress likely to be receptive to a request for more troops for Afghanistan?

BOWMAN: Well, there's growing opposition to all of this, particularly among the Democrats. More than a hundred House members, mostly Democrats, opposed this earlier this year as part of a defense spending bill that failed because of strong Republican support. Now since then, Senator Karl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, one of the strongest voices for defense in Congress, says he doesn't want to see more troops. He would like to see American trainers, but not combat troops. Of course, if anything, the opposition is growing in Congress.

INSKEEP: Tom Bowman, I want to just underline a fact that this report has been leaked. You recently asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates if he thought this report should be made public. Let's listen to what he told you.

Secretary ROBERT GATES (Department of Defense): Frankly, I believe that the president deserves the right to absorb the assessment himself, have his questions, and my questions and others' questions relating to the assessment answered before its delivery. It is, for all practical purposes, a pre-decisional document.

INSKEEP: But, of course now it's out there.

BOWMAN: Exactly. That's right. And, you know - again we don't know what's going to happen in the future, whether they'll, you know, scrub a version of this report, maybe release it to the public. We know that, you know, Gates said that I'm going to send this assessment up to the Hill to several members of Congress, let them review it. But again, now everyone has a sense of what's in this report.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: Tom Bowman is NPR's Pentagon correspondent. He's talking with us this morning as we learn that the commander of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says that the war could end in failure unless more U.S. troops are sent.

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