Republicans exploit sacking to challenge Afghan strategy

McCain leads assault on Obama's decision to reveal exit strategy from warzone

The revolving door spectacle at the top of America's military brass may have been executed with swift efficiency by Barack Obama but the fallout may just be beginning as Republicans prepare again to challenge his plans to begin a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next year.

Fresh and possibly unfriendly scrutiny of President Obama's war strategy will come as the Senate Armed Services Committee prepares to hold hearings to confirm the appointment of General David Petraeus to replace General Stanley McChrystal who was given his marching orders on Wednesday.

That General Petraeus will sail through the hearings is not in question. With luck he will have been confirmed by the end of next week allowing him to travel to Afghanistan quickly thereafter. The risk for the White House, however, is that the hearings become a forum for grievances and second-guesses about a war strategy that from all perspectives does not seem to be meeting its goals.

It is Mr Obama's pledge to start winding down America's military commitment in July next year, made alongside his decision last year to approve the current surge, that will get most attention. The assaults began yesterday with Senator John McCain taking the lead.

"It's completely understandable why the President made the decision that he did, based on the civilian-military relationship that goes a long way back," he said. But on the issue of the withdrawal deadline, he added: "You cannot tell your enemy when you're leaving in warfare and expect your strategy to prevail. That's just a fundamental of warfare."

Until this week, the war in Afghanistan had faded from daily political discussion in Washington, in part because of the BP oil spill. But the McChrystal crisis has put it back stage centre, and not at a propitious time for the President whose approval rating, according to a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll has dipped to 45 per cent, his worst score ever.

General Petraeus, who is taking a step down from his current job as head of central command to take over in Afghanistan, was intimately involved in crafting his predecessor's counter-insurgency approach on the ground, which stresses protecting civilians, restricting where possible the use of lethal force and trying to lure young Taliban fighters away from their cause.

He now becomes the new owner of that approach and his – which for now remains in the walk-on-water territory as far as Congress is concerned – is thus on the line. There are few who believe it is working very well, not least because President Hamid Karzai is still not governing in the way Americans would like.

While turning to General Petraeus earned him quick applause, Mr Obama may have created new problems for himself. For one, Petraeus will own him like no other general, because barring some truly egregious mis-step he is at this point unsackable. More important are the doubts that he may have about the President's calendar for withdrawal, which he seemed almost to verbalise while giving testimony to the Armed Services Committee last week.

In phrases that seemed to threaten the White House position, General Petraeus told the senators: "We have to be very careful with timelines." He observed that a July 2011 deadline for a troop withdrawal would depend on the "conditions" being favourable.

If there is a split here it is a dangerous one for Mr Obama, who since taking office has tripled American troop numbers in Afghanistan but has softened the backlash from the left of his party with the promise to begin drawing down those numbers in July next year.

But little of what Mr Obama has promised is happening, including the notion that the allies would deploy 10,000 troops to Afghanistan to help boost numbers. Indeed, Mr McCain will argue next week that it is because the US is talking withdrawal that countries including Poland and Canada have found it easier to announce their own exit plans.

There were also signs that allies might use the American leadership debacle to question broader strategy, notably from Poland where a top military official last night described the situation in Afghanistan as getting "systematically worse". The White House was hoping that Mr Obama may yet win some renewed political traction because of the decisiveness he showed dispatching General McChrystal.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering