For weeks, former Bush administration officials have been attacking President Obama for “dithering” on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, with Vice President Cheney saying that “signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.” But these Bush officials are also facing criticisms for largely neglecting Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq. In response, they have been citing an Afghanistan strategy report they handed off to the Obama administration that clearly laid out recommendations for moving forward. From Cheney’s recent remarks to the Center for Security Policy:
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt.
Today on ABC’s This Week, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta revealed that the Bush administration spent just one hour on that report:
PODESTA: [T]hey did present him with a report at the very end of the Bush administration, but I have it from reliable sources that the principals in the Bush administration spent one hour on that report before they handed it off to Obama.
Recently, Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE) — a former top aide to Biden and co-chair of the Vice President’s transition team — said that the Bush administration basically just “threw” the report “to the transition team as they were going out the door”:
KAUFMAN: So for him [Cheney] to come in at the end and say, “Well, we did it wrong for eight years. But then, in the end, we gave them a plan which really is what they should have used.” Let me tell you something: This administration came in. Rahm Emanuel was there. I was on the transition team on this. They started from scratch on Afghanistan. They took a blank piece of paper out and said, “What are we going to do to get this thing done?” … It was absolutely the perfect time to take a hard look at what we’re doing.
Also on This Week, conservative pundit George Will praised Obama’s process on Afghanistan, stating, “Well, also, a bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So for a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point.”
WILL: Well, also, a bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So for a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action.
The question of whether an actual troop request was made with any sense of urgency is not clear to me. The fact that one is being made by McChrystal — and whether it’s 40,000 or whether the 40,000 represents a negotiated down from 80,000 request is something that I don’t know and we should know after careful, protracted deliberation.
PODESTA: I think that the deliberation that’s going on is actually exemplary, and I completely agree with George on this. It seems that the Bush administration, for eight months, did sit on Gen. McKiernan’s request for more troops, which Obama —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s because the troops just weren’t there. It wasn’t the President saying, “I’m not going to do this if the troops are there.” They just didn’t have them.
PODESTA: Well, I don’t know, I never heard Vice President Cheney going off and giving a speech assaulting President Bush for not acting on those requests at that time. And they did present him with a report at the very end of the Bush administration, but I have it from reliable sources that the principals in the Bush administration spent one hour on that report before they handed it off to Obama.
So they handed him off a problem, and it’s a deep and difficult one, and I think he’s doing the appropriate thing by taking his time before he commits to not what looks to be surge, but what looks to be something that would commit the United States to these high troop levels for a very long time in Afghanistan.