Continuing FOX News' investigaton of the anecdote Sen. Barack Obama told about an Army captain who served in Afghanistan but suffered from an under-mannered platoon and inadequate equipment and was forced to cannibalize a confiscated Taliban weapon to carry out their mission, I put a series of questions to Obama's campaign -- many of them prompted by conversations I had via e-mail with Ollie North.
North suggested FOX News inquire when Obama first learned of the anecdote and if, as would be typical, if his Senate office filed a congressional inquiry with the Army liaison office on Capitol Hill and, if so, what the dispositionof that inquiry was.
The Obama campaign, through a spokesman and a senior adviser, informed FOX News of the following facts:
First, the Army captain met with Obama in the summer of 2007. It was a one-on-one meeting but the captain did not discuss the anecdote about his experience in Afghanistan and the shortage of men, equipment and parts in his mission against the Taliban.
Second, the Obama campaign learned at a staff level of the Afghanistan "anecdote" from the captain -- who remains unidentified but whom FOX News has spoken with -- "over the last few weeks" and developed a clear understanding of it "in recent days leading up to the debate," according to a senior adviser. No specific date was provided. Obama then learned of the anecdote just before the Thursday debate, though again no specific date was provided.
Third, because the campaign learned of the Afghanistan "anecdote" only recently, the campaign says no congressional inquiry was initiated and therefore no documentary evidence of the anecdote or follow-up with anyone in the Defense Department is available.
Fourth, the Obama campaign cannot say when the Afghanistan "anecdote" occurred. Staff tells FOX News the captain was deployed from 2003 and into 2004 but cannot provide a date or even range of dates within which the episode that gave rise to the anecdote occurred.
Chief campaign spokesman Bill Burton provided this on-the-record statement:
"Senator Obama's staff learned the details surrounding this deployment over the course of the last few weeks. Senator Obama and his staff have been reaching out to mid-level military officers because they are the most deployed and battle-tested in a generation, and they offer an indispensable view of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the challenges facing our military. Senator Obama met with this Army captain over the summer, but only recently learned of this particular story through his staff.
"Since this deployment took place nearly five years ago in 2003, the Senate office did not file a congressional inquiry with the Pentagon. This anecdote underscores the strain on resources for Afghanistan as a result of the invasion of Iraq, a situation that has been well documented and that should not surprise close observers of the war in Afghanistan. Senator Obama has consistently underscored the impact that the war in Iraq has had on our ability to complete the mission in Afghanistan. He introduced legislation over a year ago to end the war in Iraq, and to redeploy appropriate military resources to Afghanistan to support our efforts there. He will continue to call for more attention -- including military resources -- for Afghanistan, and he will provide those resources when he is commander-in-chief."