Tuesday :: Sep 22, 2009

Afghanistan: Putting The Squeeze On The President

by Turkana

Meteor Blades has noted that the Pentagon appears to be trying to force President Obama's hand, in Afghanistan; and Big Tent Democrat is exactly right that General Stanley McChrystal should be removed from his command, if he's threatening to resign if he doesn't get his way. But amidst all this disturbing news is this hint of of something better, as reported by the Associated Press:

The White House is considering expanding counterterror operations in Pakistan to refocus on eliminating al-Qaida instead of mounting a major military escalation in Afghanistan.

Two senior administration officials said Monday that the renewed fight against the terrorist organization could lead to more missile attacks on Pakistan terrorist havens by unmanned U.S. spy planes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.

Top aides to President Barack Obama said he still has questions and wants more time to decide.

The officials said the administration would push ahead with the ground mission in Afghanistan for the near future, still leaving the door open for sending more U.S. troops. But Obama's top advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden, have indicated they are reluctant to send many more troops – if any at all – in the immediate future.

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times already reported that Biden is skeptical about sending more troops, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special representative Richard Holbrooke both support the idea. Former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke sides with Biden, and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin would prefer trying to strengthen the Afghan military.

Now, at face value, the idea of using more drones is not necessarily a good one. They don't work, and they do sometimes kill civilians. But anything that slows the push for more troops is helpful. For now. Because no one has yet articulated what more troops are supposed to accomplish. No one has yet articulated an end game, or what victory is even supposed to look like. The New York Times has this, today:

General McChrystal was surprised by the lack of efficient military organization at the NATO headquarters and that a significant percentage of the troops were not positioned to carry out effective counterinsurgency operations.

There was a sense among General McChrystal’s staff that the military effort in Afghanistan was disjointed and had not learned from the lessons of the past years of the war.

“We haven’t been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years,” said one officer. “We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for one year, eight times in a row.”

In his assessment, General McChrystal also portrayed a more sophisticated Taliban foe that uses propaganda effectively and taps into the Afghan prison system as a training ground.

Let's be clear: this is yet another of the countless proofs that the Bush Administration was utterly inept, at military strategy. Obama did not create this disaster, he inherited it. But he knew he would inherit it, and it's now his. McChrystal's solution, to escalate the escalation, is no answer. This is not a war that can be won. Whatever chance there once may have been was lost, long ago, precisely due to Bush Administration ineptitude. The first and most important question, when assessing any new proposals, remains the most basic one: tell me how this ends.

Turkana :: 9:32 AM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!