From NBC's Kelly Paice and Ali Weinberg
First it was Karl Rove praising President Obama's upcoming announcement to send more troops to Afghanistan. Now it's Dan Senor.
Senor, a former senior adviser and spokesperson in Iraq during the Bush administration, said he applauds Obama on the decision he has made on the way forward in Afghanistan. His only question is why it took so long.
Senor, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a conference call sponsored by the Republican National Committee that the White House decision to delay a new Afghanistan strategy until after the country's presidential elections had been a "worrying sign," especially after Obama had declared the conflict a "war of necessity" this past August. He said, however, that he's now "pleasantly surprised" and "quite encouraged by the president's decision" to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.
But he added that he thought Obama's decision-making process was "too long," and that "the president basically signed onto the McChrystal strategy [an increase of tens of thousands of troops] a long time ago," referring to a speech Obama made in March about a new strategy, where Senor said he "made his strategy crystal clear."
"It's a legitimate question to ask why do we have to wait four months to get a decision about resourcing a commander's request that was consistent with a strategy that the president had articulated and chosen a long time ago?" Senor asked.
In the March 27 speech, Obama announced a deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and 4,000 troops to train Afghan security forces. He also said the U.S. would "accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000" by 2011. He did not, however, announce any further troop commitments.
Senor suggested that the important question that will need to be asked in the days ahead is what exactly will be the NATO and European contributions to the Afghan war effort. The New York Times reported yesterday that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a 500-troop increase, bringing the country's total commitment to 10,000 soldiers, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy "signaled that France was not in a position to commit more troops."
Senor also stressed that the timeline is "critically important." He pointed out that commanders in Iraq said that one of the biggest advantages they had was the timeline, particularly with five brigades sent in five months.
He predicted the people will "rush to compare 2010 to 2009," but "the real comparison should really be the summer of 2011 to the summers of 2010 and 2009." He stressed that "it is going to take a couple of years to see the real strong, consistent, durable progress," that Americans a looking for in winning this war.
He also touched on the importance of the administration to continually educate the public on Afghanistan and "setting realistic expectations of the American people."