United States lawmakers are complaining that the metrics set out by the Obama administration to measure progress for their efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan Wednesday are too vague and are pressing to know if meeting the goals laid out will require more troops.
The list of 46 benchmarks and eight objectives include defeating extremists and terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, improving Pakistan’s ability to fight militants, and expanding and training Afghan forces.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would postpone any decisions on a troop increase in Afghanistan until he has “absolute clarity” on the strategy for the war there.
"Basically, they didn't tell us anything we don't already know," said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.
That panel's top Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, called the benchmarks "a start," but not specific enough.
Some legislators are frustrated that President Obama has deferred the decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan when the goals his administration set for winning the war appear to require more boots on the ground. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Yet the lofty goals set by the White House -- such as promoting an Afghan government that can combat extremism and corruption while supporting human rights -- represent difficult, time-consuming work likely to require additional military and nonmilitary commitments at a time of flagging support from Obama's wary political base.
The troop level in Afghanistan is set to rise to 68,000 by the end of the year as 21,000 new troops are deployed.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told Congress that more troops will be necessary in Afghanistan, the Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday. This and similar statements by top military officials could be laying the groundwork such an increase.
The Los Angeles Times also notes that the Afghanistan benchmarks are much different than the goals set for the war in Iraq, which were concrete objectives.
In Iraq, Congress set concrete objectives, such as movement of troops into Baghdad and passage of key pieces of legislation. The Afghanistan and Pakistan metrics are more general, such as progress toward stable governments or steps to combat corruption.
The administration official said the White House discarded metrics that entailed resources put into the war, such as the number of Afghan security forces trained, in favor of measuring results, like effectiveness of those forces in conducting counterinsurgency missions.
Complaints about the administration’s briefing for lawmakers Wednesday came from both proponents and opponents of a troop increase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that Senator McCain, who supports sending more forces to Afghanistan, said there was not a “real discussion” of strategy in the briefings. Bloomberg reports that Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.) also expressed doubt at the clarity of the Obama administration’s strategy.
“At the very moment when our troops and our allies’ troops are sacrificing more and more, our path and our progress seem to be growing less and less clear,” Kerry said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and Vietnam veteran who heads the panel, said he is concerned about the utility of adding more forces to the war.