11 November 2009

Analysis of President Obama's Decision Making Process

ABC posted a timeline of President Barak Obama's AfPak meetings following General McChrystal's recommendations. The White House posted some pictures of a couple of the meetings along with a list of who attended. I wanted to analyze the meeting timeline and the participants to speculate on what is actually going on behind the closed doors.

Aug 30-McChrystal sends Gates his assessment without troop requests. McChrystal believes we have 12 months to gain the initiative or lose the war. The mark on the wall is Sept 1, 2010

Sept 13-Obama has his first meeting with his "National Security Team". There is no picture or list of attendees. I think this was a meeting to lay the ground work for future meetings and decide who should attend.

Sept 22-Bob Woodward gets a hold of McChrystal's report and forwards it like it's hot.

Sept 30 (2nd Meeting)-I don't think it is a coincidence that the news reports that McChrystal provided Sec Gates his troop requirements on this day. This could have happened after the meeting but I believe it was the topic of the meeting. In attendance; Biden, Gates, Clinton, Adm Mullen, Gen Petraeus, Gen McCrystal, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, General James Jones, National Security Advisor

Oct 7 (3rd Meeting)- No change to previous attendance and add Susan Rice, UN Ambassador and John Brennan, assistant to President on CT and Homeland Security.

Oct 9 (4th Meeting)- Add Rahm Emanuel and Lt. Gen Lute, special assistant to President on AfPak.

Oct 14 (5th Meeting)- No change to attendance. I believe the President used the last 4 meetings to look at multiple courses of action between the full 40,000 additional troops to Biden's CT plan and everything in between.

Oct 26 (6th Meeting)- No military or Intelligence Agency leadership in attendance. This was a meeting with the Secretaries and White House staff only. I think the troop decision was made by this point. The President probably held a meeting to war game their release of the new AfPak strategy.

Oct 30 (7th Meeting)- The Chairmen and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are all in attendance for this meeting. No intel agencies or operational military leadership in attendance. I believe this is the meeting that the President told the Joint Chiefs officially what the plan is and brought them in for their input on the impacts on how it would affect the patch charts and the logistics. Rahm Emanuel is also in attendance.

Nov 10th, Gen Casey went on the record in favor of a troop increase in Afghanistan but would not specifically say if he supported Gen McChrystal's 40,000 troop request. I think this is a telling fact that only after the Oct 30th meeting did Gen Casey officially support a troop increase. Since he didn't say outright that he supports 40,000 additional troops, I believe we can infer two things. 1) The President did not decided on a CT focused strategy. 2) McCrystal won't get his 40,000 he requested.

Nov 11th (Next Meeting) No word on who will be in attendance.

I was happy to see that the President brought in the military, intel, and State Dep folks to weigh in on the decision. We don't know what they added but at least they had a chance to provide input. The only thing that I worry about when I see meetings like this is Rahm Emanuel's attendance. I think everyone else was there to work for a victory while Rahm's primary duty is to look at this from a political perspective and is concerned more about 2012 Washington than 2010 Kabul.

We know that the White House will make a public statement on Afghanistan most likely after President Obama's trip to Asia. What we need to do now is match the future troop deployments to McChrystal's 12 month time frame for success or failure.


1 comment:

  1. JD:

    Great insights...thanks! I came across another article this morning from the NY Times (at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/us/politics/12policy.html?_r=1&hp) that discusses two different official cables sent to the President from special envoy Karl Eikenberry (former ISAF commander). In both, Eikenberry reportedly argues against sending additional troops, in part due to his lack of confidence in Karzai and his government's ability to produce results for the local populace. I think this is an extremely valid point, and hopefully one that Obama has already considered.

    On a related note, the article also talked about a series of planned trips for Richard Holbrooke (the Obama AfPak envoy) to China, Russia, and France. To me, this may signal that a decision has already been mostly made in Obama's mind, but he wants to build some international consensus behind it before officially announcing the policy - in my mind a very shrewd political move that will hopefully pay off with more international support (in terms of both troops and funding).

    Thoughts? Are some of the recent reports true that Obama has rejected all 4x COAs he was briefed yesterday or does he in fact have his mind made up and is just tweaking and thinking of 2nd and 3rd order effects and ways to mitigate risk?