Tag Archives: Petraeus

Petraeus takes command and the dust settles, now what was McChrystal thinking?

We may never know what drove Gen. Stanley McChrystal to say the things he did to Rolling Stone.  But now that the dust has settled we should closely analyze McChrystal’s misstep for hints or suggestions as to what he was really trying to tell us.
By now everyone knows that McChrystal made the fatal mistake of criticizing the civilian chain of command, and for that President Obama accepted his resignation.  McChrystal clearly erred in sharing that he felt that the President was intimidated by his own generals and implying that the Vice-President didn’t have a handle on the Afghan war, and he undoubtedly knows this.  But were his comments regarding senior civilians not in his chain of command meant as a warning?
Military officers are taught from day one to place the care of the men and women under their command first.  McChrystal’s comments hint of man who personally felt that the civilian apparatus was too broken to adequate address the task at hand.  McChrystal is a smart man, and one who spent his career under the radar.  In this highly unorthodox move he broadcast his frustration publicly and openly. Only the General really knows why, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that he chose to make a statement that things are not going quite right in Afghanistan.  Perhaps he felt his strategy did not receive adequate support at home, or that even the best military and civilian minds are struggling to frame a policy to fit the conditions.
There is no real evidence to support the idea that McChrystal purposely ended his career.  Some have even suggested that he and his staff didn’t realize the comments were on the record.
But because it looks increasingly likely that these comments were on the record, and because of his commitment and sacrifice for the country, I don’t think it is a waste to continue the conversation as to why his career ended the way it did.
Posted on 29 Jul 2010

Photo: army.mil
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Re-Tooling

GEN PetraeusWall Street Journal does a little chicken-egg on what Petraeus has managed in the last few weeks and what was McChrystal’s work. Basically counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism, though it appears to be a fine, and disputed line. The upshot is WSJ reports a re-tooling is underway with greater emphasis on counterinsurgency, while the White House still wants to hold to its … cough ( political) hawk ptooie, excuse me … troop withdrawal deadline. WSJ figures Petraeus may manage to slow that a little, but not substantially delay halt or reverse. I thought this part was interesting:

Some in the White House advocate a pared-down approach that requires fewer troops and greater emphasis on drone attacks on insurgent leaders. These officials would like to see an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Who’s that?” That is, sounds like that’s who that is.

During the Iraq surge, Gen. Petraeus proved adept at parrying suggestions for a rapid withdrawal and won time to show his strategy could work.

Since then, of course, the surrender enthusiasts got voted into the White House. Makes it more challenging. Especially when they see their political interest, which is to say their primary strategic goal, lying mainly in exit, not success.

People close to Gen. Petraeus said he is unlikely to try to persuade the Obama administration to back off its promise to begin drawing down troops in July 2011. But they do expect him to privately push for troops to be removed slowly, along a timetable that keeps a large force in Afghanistan.
“I think Gen. Petraeus will talk again about putting more time on the Washington clock,” said Peter Mansoor, who served as Gen. Petraeus’s executive officer in Iraq and is now a professor at the Ohio State University. “I think we have more time than we think in Afghanistan.”
An effective counterinsurgency strategy can take years, and it remains unclear whether Gen. Petraeus’ approach will work in Afghanistan, where volatile tribal politics, a lack of infrastructure and rudimentary local security forces pose significant challenges.

I don’t know. The first challenge is to make it work in a Democratic White House, where volatile partisan politics, a lack of experience and an at-best rudimentary grasp of security issues …. If anyone can, it’s Petraeus. Obama’s default choice to squelch military insubrdination, a sort of military bigfoot who may have the ability to prevent him and the rest of the current civilian leadership from losing this thing.

NYT, meanwhile, notes that the deadline strategy is a bit of a “double-edged sword.” Goes on to note that confidence is failing, pols and allies shuffling for the door, but fails to connect the dots. A deadline strategy is less of a double edged-sword than a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the leader of the free world has indicated he doesn’t particularly give a damn whether we win this thing or not, why should anyone else?

In other Afghan news:

NYT: Six Afghan police officers beheaded.

AFP: Women in northern Afghanistan retreat behind the veil in fear of Taliban revival.

Guardian: International aid conference underwhelms a jaded Afghan blogosphere.

This one’s interesting. AP:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban denounced this week’s international conference on Afghanistan’s future, saying the “vague and terrible agenda” shows that the U.S. and its allies intend to abandon the country and blame their ultimate defeat on the Afghan government.

In a statement posted in English on their website, the Taliban said the conference showed that the U.S. “has lost the initiatives and is unable to resolve Afghanistan issue.” The statement was distributed to news organizations by the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors extremist communications.
“Whatever actions are taken in this regard have already been doomed to a failure,” the statement said. “It is evident from the vague and terrible agenda of the conference … that America and the international community intend to pull out of Afghanistan” and blame “all the coming destruction’s, humiliation and defeat on Kabul puppet regime,” meaning the Karzai administration.

Hate to agree with the Taliban on anything, but they might have a point. It almost looks like remarkable clarity of thought on the part of the AP, but rather than any re-tooling to question the Obama admin’s commitment to Afghanistan, they’re just parroting the Islamic extremist line, per normal. (Notable lack of any references to the Taliban’s “deeply unpopular” insurgency, its rising death toll, or its responsibility for thousands of civilian deaths, the kind of boilerplate usually bolted onto any war-related statements the AP takes issue with. After noting a Taliban success in divierting some flights, the article does get around to a BTW mention of some deaths, attributing some beheadings to non-specific insurgents, and the rest of the violence to NATO actions.)

Posted on 24 Jul 2010
Crossposted on http://www.julescrittenden.com

Photo: flickr/soldiermediacenter

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