White House Pushes Back Against Cheney

Last night, former Vice president Cheney had some harsh comments about President Obama’s decision making process about strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying "the White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger." At this afternoon’s briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs fired back. “It's a curious comment,” Gibbs said, arguing that “the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan. Even more curious given the fact that 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.” Gibbs was referring to a troop request by Gen. David McKiernan (Ret.), whose retirement Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested and received in May. “What Vice President Cheney calls ‘dithering,’” Gibbs said, “President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public. I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously.” Asked for further clarification about who didn’t take that responsibility seriously, Gibbs said he was referring to Cheney not filling McKiernan's troop request. “I find it interesting that he's blaming us for something that he didn't see fit to do over, best I can tell, seven years of a war in Afghanistan,” Gibbs said, adding that the former vice president "seems to have forgotten his role in the last seven years in Afghanistan.” Gibbs argued that Cheney's argument doesn't make sense given that he didn’t fill McKiernan's request for troops to go from the then-level of approximately 35,000 to 65,000, but is criticizing President Obama for taking time to contemplate increasing the level from 65,000 to 100,000. "Fuzzy math," Gibbs said. Cheney may have been responding to comments by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who told CNN on Sunday that “when you go through all the analysis, it's clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that's adrift. That we're beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years.” When asked for evidence of what Emanuel was talking about, the White House has pointed to comments from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said that President Obama’s counter insurgency strategy announced in March “is the first real strategy we have had for Afghanistan since the early 1980s.” -jpt

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