A FoxNews.com article headlined, "Rumsfeld cries foul on Obama claim troop requests for Afghanistan were denied," uncritically reported that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "said in his statement the White House should make public any such requests if they exist to back up the allegation" and repeated his comments that "[t]he president's assertion does a disservice to the truth and, in particular, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served and sacrificed in Afghanistan." FoxNews.com ignored the fact that a request for additional troops from Gen. David McKiernen, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, went unfulfilled during the Bush administration and was granted by President Obama in March.
Fox uncritically repeats Rumsfeld criticism that Obama statement "does a disservice to the truth"
Fox News: Rumsfeld rejected the claim as a "bald misstatement." A FoxNews.com article reported: "Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday lashed out at President Obama for claiming the Bush administration rebuffed commanders' repeated requests for more troops in Afghanistan. In a rare break in his public silence since leaving the Pentagon, Rumsfeld rejected the claim as a 'bald misstatement' and 'disservice' that cannot go unanswered." The article continued:
"Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response," Rumsfeld said in a written statement. "I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006." [FoxNews.com, 12/02/09]
Fox quotes Rumsefld: "The president's assertion does a disservice to the truth." The article also reported that "Rumsfeld said in his statement the White House should make public any such requests if they exist to back up the allegation" and quoted Rumsfeld's claim that "[t]he president's assertion does a disservice to the truth and, in particular, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served and sacrificed in Afghanistan." The article continued: "He urged Congress to review the claim in the upcoming debate to 'determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied.' "
Adm. Mullen, others, cite troop request not met under Bush
Obama cited reinforcement requests that "did not arrive" under Bush In his December 1 speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, President Obama stated: "Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive." [12/01/09]
Gibbs: Obama referenced 2008 request for troops that did not arrive under Bush. In the White House press briefing following the speech at West Point, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated that "what President Obama was talking about were additional resource requests that came in during 2008, which we've discussed in here." [White House press briefing, 12/2/09 (accessed via Nexis)]
Politifact calls Obama's statement true: Troop request "sat on desks" of Bush administration "for more than eight months" until "filled by President Obama." Referring to a similar statement Gibbs made in October, a PolitiFact.com article called Gibbs' statement "true" "that (a request for) an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president's, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March." PolitiFact.com reported:
Gibbs is referring here to a request for additional troops made by the previous top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, during President George W. Bush's final year in office.
McKiernan made his requests public in a press conference in September 2008 in Afghanistan, saying he needed at least three more combat brigades, in addition to the one Bush had promised in January. He said more soldiers and resources were needed to stabilize insurgencies in Afghanistan.
McKiernan said then that the Pentagon validated his formal request for additional troops, and that his request dated back to when he replaced his predecessor four months prior.
In a news briefing at the Pentagon on Oct. 1, 2008, McKiernan reiterated his call for more troops -- "the level of effort needs to be increased" -- and said he was hoping to see a shift of assets from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The public doesn't have access to McKiernan's formal request for more troops. But we know that he was talking about it publicly in September 2008, at least 4 1/2 months before the end of Bush's term. And McKiernan told reporters his request went back nearly to the start of his taking over as the top U.S. commander four months before that. That would suggest Gibbs' claim is correct that it had been sitting on desks in the White House for eight months. And so we rule his statement True. [PolitiFact.com, 10/22/09]
Adm. Mullen: Not enough troops in Afghanistan because of Iraq. In a December 2008 interview, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the conflict in Afghanistan: "We don't have enough troops there. I've said that over many months. And in that regard, we need to flow troops there as soon as they're available." Mullen added that "until we get to a point where we reduce that commitment [in Iraq], we won't have significant additional troops to add to Afghanistan." [PBS, 7/22/08]
Mullen: "We do what the president says, and that's what we did." In a December 2 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) asked Mullen: "I wonder, Admiral, if -- are you aware of a request for reinforcements from 2001 to 2006 -- or 2008 that was not heeded? Can you tell the committee who made those requests? Can you tell the committee who in the chain of command denied those requests? Because I find the president's assertion, having been a part of a very strong bipartisan support for Afghanistan, really astonishing." Mullen responded: "Just in my tenure here, sir, that General McKiernan specifically had a fairly substantial request for upwards of 20,000 forces, which we couldn't meet because they just weren't there. They were in Iraq. I spoke out very early that Afghanistan had been underresourced and that, from my -- from where I lived, the heart of that was underresourced with military forces. We didn't have them, because they were pushed to Iraq. And we couldn't -- we really didn't have the flexibility to move them. That was a priority of a previous president. We do what the president says, and that's what we did." [Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 12/2/09 (accessed via Nexis)]