The Pentagon waded into partisan warfare waters Thursday, a day after a Republican lawmaker claimed that the Secretary of Defense had privately griped to him about Obama’s plans for Afghanistan, according to a Capitol Hill newspaper.
Roll Call‘s John Stanton reports, “A Pentagon spokesman disputed claims by House Armed Services ranking member Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) that Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him in July that President Barack Obama was not inclined to send additional troops to Afghanistan.”
“Spokesman Geoff Morrell also disputed McKeon’s claim that Obama told him he had directed Gens. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal to ‘scrub’ a pending troop request during the July conversation, which he said took place while the two were traveling to Afghanistan,” the article adds.
The defense secretary said Obama had told the generals to “scrub everything, to make sure they didn’t ask for more than they needed,” McKeon said.
But McKeon said that when he asked McChrystal whether that sent “a chilling message” that he should ask for fewer troops than he thought he needed, the general replied “No, I’m honor-bound to ask for what I need.”
Although, Morrell noted that “he had not yet discussed the issue with Gates,” he told Roll Call “Thursday that he doesn’t believe Gates would have made those statements.”
“I do not believe Secretary Gates would have said something of that nature to Rep. McKeon,” Morrell said. “It just doesn’t make sense because neither the secretary nor the president has begun to consider additional forces for Afghanistan. Their focus right now is on reviewing the strategy. Once that process is complete, they will consider what resources are necessary to make it work.”
Gates was tapped by former Republican President George W. Bush for the Defense Secretary position to replace the besieged Donald Rumsfeld who abruptly quit after the Democrats took back control of the House in the 2006 elections. Obama retained Gates as his Defense Secretary after winning the 2008 presidency.
(with AFP report)