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Congress needs McChrystal's candid advice on Afghanistan

Obama was wise to meet top lawmakers today, but he must unmuzzle the top brass.

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A pending White House decision on whether to put more US troops in Afghanistan will require backing by Congress. So President Obama was smart to hold a bipartisan meeting of top lawmakers today to discuss this difficult choice.

But he must go further and remove a newly imposed muzzle on the military's top brass, especially Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Otherwise, Congress – and the American public – won't have the same candid advice that the president receives in choosing whether to expand this war.

The muzzle was imposed Monday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates after McChrystal offered some policy advice last week at a forum in London, saying any plan that fails to leave a stable Afghanistan "is probably a shortsighted strategy."

Mr. Gates warned that military deliberations on Afghanistan must be done privately – and only up the chain of command to the president, the commander in chief.

While his warning reflects the necessary subordination of the military to civilian control during war, this sort of gag order would leave Congress out of the loop in weighing all the necessary information before deciding to fund up to 40,000 more soldiers – a nearly 60 percent increase – in the fight against the Taliban.

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