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Levin: Obama backed McChrystal in Afghanistan meeting

President Obama expressed strong support for Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his meeting with lawmakers this afternoon, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin reported upon returning to Capitol Hill. Several lawmakers used their short speaking time at the marathon briefing/discussion at the White House to weigh in on the firestorm created by the ...

President Obama expressed strong support for Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his meeting with lawmakers this afternoon, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin reported upon returning to Capitol Hill.

Several lawmakers used their short speaking time at the marathon briefing/discussion at the White House to weigh in on the firestorm created by the perception that McChrystal’s statements in speeches and interviews were meant to pressure Obama to increase troop levels or represented insubordination because he was getting ahead of the ongoing Afghanistan policy review.

"People talked about how good of a commander he’s got in the field and [Obama] agreed. People said he ought to put a lot of stock in what that commander says, and he agreed with that. Of course, others pointed out that there’s a chain of command above McChrystal that he ought to listen to, and he agreed with that as well," Levin said.

But Levin said that story was overblown and that the president and his field commander are on the same page.

"There’s no rift with McChrystal," said Levin, "[Obama] said he picked McChrystal and he wants McChrystal to be direct … He reiterated that McChrystal is very supportive of the deliberative process and getting the strategy right before focusing on the troop levels or resources."

Someone who is not on the same page as McChrystal is Levin himself, who said he told Obama clearly at the large meeting and during a private conversation afterwards that he was opposed to sending more combat troops past what it would take to protect additional trainers for the Afghan security forces.

"I don’t think we should be sending in more combat troops, because the downsides of doing that outweigh the additional value," Levin said, who added that "A lot of Republicans spoke as if they very much support what he is trying to do, in terms of the general direction in which he’s heading."

War makes strange bedfellows…

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin