The Obama campaign offered no details to support the captain’s story, making it impossible to verify. A spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about who the captain was and when and how the candidate learned about the allegation.
ABC News said it talked to the unidentified captain, whose account of shortages in Afghanistan was for the most part accurately summarized by Obama, although not verified.
The captain said, however, that the unit did not go after the Taliban for the purpose of getting their weapons, but sometimes used those weapons when some were captured.
The Pentagon has acknowledged forces are stretched, but spokesman Bryan Whitman said that without knowing more, he could not comment on the veracity of Obama’s claim, except to say: “I find that account pretty hard to imagine.”
Whitman contended “all of our units and service members that go into harm’s way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful for the mission that they’ve been given.”
Obama said the platoon was supposed to have 39 soldiers. A platoon does not have to consist of 39, but can have between 16 to 40 soldiers, according to standard Army unit organization. It is also commanded by a lieutenant and not a captain.
According to the ABC report, the captain was a lieutenant when he took command of the rifle platoon.
Reuters reporting the Pentagon response:
The Pentagon on Friday cast doubt on an account of military equipment shortages mentioned by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during a debate with rival Hillary Clinton.
During the face-to-face encounter on Thursday evening, Obama said he had heard from an Army captain whose unit had served in Afghanistan without enough ammunition or vehicles.
Obama said it was easier for the troops to capture weapons from Taliban militants than it was “to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief,” President George W. Bush.
“I find that account pretty hard to imagine,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
“Despite the stress that we readily acknowledge on the force, one of the things that we do is make sure that all of our units and service members that are going into harm’s way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful,” he said.
Whitman’s remarks were unusual as the Pentagon often declines to talk about comments from political campaigns.