Retired Gen. Colin Powell, in an exclusive interview with me on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, said he has advised President Barack Obama to take all the time he needs on deciding to send more troops to Afghanistan and to not bend to the will of partisans on the political left and the right.
Powell, a 35-year Army veteran, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later secretary of state, said whatever President Obama makes will have "consequences for years to come."
"If you decide to send more troops or that's what you feel it is necessary, make sure you have a good understanding of what those troops are going to be doing and some assurance that the additional troops will be successful," Powell said this morning. "You can't guarantee success in a very complex theater like Afghanistan and increasingly with the Pakistan problem next door. But you have to have some sense of what these additional troops will be able to do."
President Obama is conducting another meeting today with his national security team as they weigh the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who wants as many as 40,000 troops to advance the war in terror there. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released today shows the nation split: 49 percent question whether the president is taking too long to decide, and 50 percent do not think so.
One of the president's biggest critics, former vice president Dick Cheney, ripped the White House earlier for "dithering" on the request, saying President Obama must show leadership and heed the call of his general on the ground.
Yet Powell, who often tangled with Cheney during his time as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said President Obama must weigh the troop request, as well as political situation on the ground in Afghanistan, which has mired in a presidential election quagmire over allegations of widespread corruption.
"You've got to ensure that you're putting this commitment on a solid base, and the base is a little soft right now. We've got a president in Afghanistan that had a rough election; a lot of corruption associate with the election; a lot of corruption in the government," Powell said. "And he has been told, Mr. Karzai has been told, and I know him very well, he's been told he's got to do something about this; he's got to do something about the drug problem, and he's got to start pulling the Afghan people together.
"And so the president has to measure that; what kind of base is he putting this new strategy on because it isn't just what we do; shat do the Afghans do. And as I said a moment ago, it's made particularly difficult because of the unstable situation along the Pakistan border and in Pakistan."
Powell admitted that the decision facing President Obama is a difficult one.
"It isn't just a one-time decision," Powell said. "This is the decision that will have consequences for the better part of his administration. So Mr. President, don't get pushed by the left to do nothing; don't get pushed by the right to do everything. You take your time and you figure it out.
"You're the commander-in-chief and this is what you were elected for."
Click here to listen the interview with Powell on Afghanistan issue.
Click here to listen to full 9-minute interview with Powell on Veteran's Day, the military as a career, and Afghanistan.
Roland S. Martin is senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a nationally-syndicated radio show heard in more than 110 markets. He can be heard daily at 7:15 a.m. EST. Martin is also a CNN Contributor and host/managing editor of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV One Cable Network. The show airs Sundays at 11 a.m. EST and 5 p.m. EST.
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