Gibbs Responds to Cheney: He ‘Seems To Have Forgotten His Role In The Last Seven Years Of Afghanistan’

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"Gibbs Responds to Cheney: He ‘Seems To Have Forgotten His Role In The Last Seven Years Of Afghanistan’"

Last night in a speech to the Center for Security Policy, Vice President Cheney attacked President Obama for “dithering” on whether to add more troops to Afghanistan. “[T]he success of our mission in Afghanistan is not only essential, it is entirely achievable with enough troops and enough political courage,” said Cheney.

As ThinkProgress has pointed out, in 2008, the Bush administration rejected the request for 30,000 more troops from Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top U.S. commander in Kabul. “There was a saying when I got there: If you’re in Iraq and you need something, you ask for it,” McKiernan said in an interview after he was fired. “If you’re in Afghanistan and you need it, you figure out how to do without it.”

In today’s White House press briefing, Gibbs referenced McKiernan’s troop request to hit back on the emptiness of Cheney’s accusations:

GARRETT: So that was a specific reference to McKiernan’s request that said that specific troop request was not taken seriously.

GIBBS: It wasn’t — Whether it was taken seriously or not, it wasn’t filled. I assume since it wasn’t filled, it was not taken seriously. Maybe they filled unserious ones and didn’t fill serious ones. That’s a fabulous question for the Vice President, who seems to have forgotten his role in the last seven years of Afghanistan.

When Fox News reporter Major Garrett then asked whether it was “proof of unseriousness to not necessarily agree with a request for troops submitted by a commander in the field,” Gibbs replied:

GIBBS: No. I’m simply saying, I think it’s interesting what the Vice President is suggesting the President isn’t acting on is what the previous administration didn’t act on, right? […]

Help me understand the rationale how one goes from half as many troops as are now in Afghanistan under his watch, to 68,000, to now wanting an additional 40 [thousand], when you didn’t want the additional troops that President Obama approved. I mean, how do you go from 68-plus, when you didn’t want 34-plus? How — Do you — It defies some modicum of logic to get “I didn’t want to go from 35,000 to 65,000, but I want to go from 65,000 to 100,000.” Fuzzy math.

Watch it:

Transcript:

GARRETT: Robert, is your point about the Bush-Cheney approach to Afghanistan that on the request for troops and the overall lack of focus, you would suggest there was a dereliction of duty to do with Afghanistan?

GIBBS: I’m just saying that the focus was not on Afghanistan.

GARRETT: To the detriment of our efforts there?

GIBBS: I don’t think it helped.

GARRETT: And when you said the nation has seen the consequences when a president doesn’t take that responsibility seriously, is that an allegation that you’re laying at the feet of President Bush: that he did not take troop deployment decisions seriously?

GIBBS: I don’t know what President Bush has said about this recently; I know what Vice President Cheney about this last night, and I was referring to that.

GARRETT: Which war?

GIBBS: Which —

GARRETT: Which troop effort are you talking about wasn’t taken seriously?

GIBBS: I think you were asking about my response on Afghanistan. Yeah.

GARRETT: So that was a specific reference to McKiernan’s request that said that specific troop request was not taken seriously.

GIBBS: It wasn’t — Whether it was taken seriously or not, it wasn’t filled. I assume since it wasn’t filled, it was not taken seriously. Maybe they filled unserious ones and didn’t fill serious ones. That’s a fabulous question for the Vice President, who seems to have forgotten his role in the last seven years of Afghanistan.

GARRETT: Is proof of unseriousness to not necessarily agree with a request for troops submitted by a commander in the field?

GIBBS: No. I’m simply saying, I think it’s interesting what the Vice President is suggesting the President isn’t acting on is what the previous administration didn’t act on, right? There were half as many troops in Afghanistan under — (CROSSTALK)

Help me understand the rationale how one goes from half as many troops as are now in Afghanistan under his watch, to 68,000, to now wanting an additional 40 [thousand], when you didn’t want the additional troops that President Obama approved. I mean, how do you go from 68-plus, when you didn’t want 34-plus? How — Do you — It defies some modicum of logic to get “I didn’t want to go from 35,000 to 65,000, but I want to go from 65,000 to 100,000.” Fuzzy math.

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Today, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered a rebuttal to Cheney, saying that he supports Obama on Afghanistan:

I think President Obama is entitled to take sufficient time to decide what our long-term role ought to be in Afghanistan. Then I think he should come to Congress and say to the American people what that plan is and see if he can persuade us and all of the American people of the rightness of it because he needs to have support all the way through to the end of that mission, so I want him to take the time to get it right.

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