That's almost but not quite true. Per the exchange below, I think Obama was characterizing himself generally as "skeptical" when fielding military requests for more troops - skeptical as a matter of principle and habitual procedure.
Which is not to say that Stephanopoulos was not picking up a genuine signal. What struck me, below, was the way Obama characterized his March decision to send 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan:
Those troops were sent "to secure the election"? I don't believe that the stated rationale was that circumscribed when the deployment was announced. The reinforcements were sent to staunch an acknowledged deterioration in the fight to contain Taliban influence. Moreover, the effort to "stabilize" the election is universally acknowledged to have failed to prevent massive election fraud.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were for a flexible time line in Iraq. Some people now are saying that's exactly what should happen in Afghanistan if the same conditions hold. Do you agree with that?
OBAMA: Here's what I think. When we came in, basically, there had been drift in our Afghan strategy. Everybody acknowledges that. And I ordered a top to bottom review. The most important thing I wanted was us to refocus on why we're there. We're there because al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans and we cannot allow extremists who want to do violence to the United States to be able to operate with impunity.
Now, I think we've lost -- we lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a -- a classic case of mission creep where we're just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions.
I wanted to narrow it. I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important. That was before the review was completed. I also said after the election I want to do another review. We've just gotten those 21,000 in. General McChrystal, who's only been there a few months, has done his own assessment.
I am now going to take all this information and we're going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm's way, we are defeating al Qaeda and -- and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me -- somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops, then we will do what's required to keep the American people safe.
Does that retroactive mission-tightening suggest a current reluctance to commit more troops?