By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Even as President Obama said today that he won't make a quick decision on an expected Pentagon request to send more US troops to Afghanistan, senior White House officials gave a long-awaited confidential briefing to members of Congress on the benchmarks that the administration intends to use to measure the success of the military mission there.
The metrics, which Obama promised in a high profile speech in March, were meant to send the message that the White House has narrowly tailored its objectives in Afghanistan to focus on terrorism. At the time, Obama announced that he was sending 21,000 more US troops, bringing the force to about 68,000 by year's end, and said he would demand measurable progress.
But some of the 40 or so lawmakers who attended today's briefing complained that the administration's benchmarks describe a far more open-ended commitment in Afghanistan.
"The stated goal is rhetorically narrowing the missions but it is anything but that," said Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "There is no question in my mind based on the metrics that have been laid out that this is nation-building."
Senator Robert Casey Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves on the same committee, offered a more generous assessment, but said he, too is "not yet satisfied."
He also said the White House should make the metrics public as soon as possible. "They need to be out there," he said. "The American people need frequent reporting."
The list of 46 metrics, obtained by the Globe and first posted online by Foreign Policy, includes some obvious measures of success, such as the percentage of the population living under insurgent control and the capabilities and size of the Afghan national army. But the list also contained some nontraditional measures, such as support for human rights, the ability of the Afghan government to collect taxes, and the ability to hold credible elections.
Click here to see the metrics.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.