WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has soured on a call from its top commander to double the size of the Afghan police and army, reflecting the White House's continued skepticism about the Afghan government even as the U.S. prepares a surge of troops into the country, people familiar with the matter say.
At an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will send roughly 30,000 American reinforcements to Afghanistan in addition to the 21,000 he deployed early in his administration. The escalation would bring total U.S. forces to some 100,000, the largest American troop deployment to Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban government.
Obama may need Republicans to back his latest troop increase to make up for Democratic antiwar defections. The GOP, however, will question any decision that falls short of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops, said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. In a phone interview from Afghanistan, where he and other lawmakers were visiting, Price said he was skeptical of would-be half measures to try to please both parties. "If what you're trying to do is to please all people, than that might not make any sense," he said.
But the administration seems prepared to reject another of Gen. McChrystal's top priorities: his call to double the size of the Afghan police and army over the next few years.
The administration now favors an alternative plan that would seek to build a larger Afghan security force, but one that would be considerably smaller than what Gen. McChrystal had wanted, these people said. The president is likely to talk about Afghan troops Tuesday, without specifying a growth target for expanding their ranks.
"The president has a realistic view of how successful the training regimen can be, and that has helped inform his decision," a senior administration official said Sunday.