Bush vows more troops for Afghanistan, but Mullen doesn't have them

The president says troop levels need to rise, but the Joint Chiefs chairman says the forces will have to come from Iraq.

Published July 3, 2008 3:05PM (EDT)

For the second consecutive month, more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Nearly seven years after the war in Afghanistan began, June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops there, and our force levels in the country are now at their highest since the war began. All of this, tragically, comes a few years after the president assured Americans that the Taliban "no longer is in existence."

With conditions worsening, the White House now believes it's time to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan before the end of the year. "We're going to increase troops by 2009," President Bush said, without elaboration.

As it happens, that might be easier said than done. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he doesn't have the troops for Afghanistan, until he can pull them out of Iraq.

Of course, critics of the administration's foreign policy have argued for years that the war in Iraq necessarily diverted personnel and resources from Afghanistan, and those concerns certainly seem to have been bolstered by Mullen's remarks Wednesday.

What's more, the situation creates a very awkward dynamic. The president is announcing his intention to send additional troops, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is announcing on the same day that the president's plan isn't really an option right now.

By Steve Benen

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