Friday, June 24, 2011

Reuters: "The risks and rewards of the Afghan withdrawal"; and, our glorious generals scramble to lay down their alibis

A short Reuters report of 06/23/2011 on the Afghanistan War:



So much of this war is reminiscent of problems that developed in the Vietnam War. The US/NATO presence is injecting large amounts of money into the economy. But without the NATO presence, Afghanistan is unlikely to be able to generate anything close to this level of economic activity to sustain the boom

Also, it sounds like much of the training of both police and soldiers NATO is doing assumes the presence of a NATO-like support infrastructure. And the Afghans are not going to be able to duplicate that on their own either.

The Pentagon will probably never recommend a full withdrawal. Like JSOC Chief Admiral Mike Mullen in this report, they will want to leave a CYA trail to claim that they recommended an allegedly more cautious, prudent and effective course if things go south in Afghanistan. They have their own version of a "once in, never out" policy. The following from Troop exit plan means hard choices for US commanders in Afghanistan Christian Science Monitor 06/23/2011 shows a familiar Pentagon position:

Pentagon officials have warned that drawing down US troops before Afghan forces are ready to take over the fight against radical Islamist insurgents could threaten the "fragile and reversible gains" that the US military says it has made against the Taliban, particularly in southern Afghanistan.

But the president's timetable offers some flexibility for US commanders. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had lobbied for a more modest drawdown of 3,000 to 5,000 troops by year’s end, made that point in a statement supporting Obama’s plan.

"Over the past 18 months our troops have made tremendous progress degrading the capability of the Taliban while enhancing the Afghan security forces. It is critical that we continue to aggressively prosecute that strategy," he said. "I support the President's decision because it provides our commanders with enough resources, time and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility to bring the surge to a successful conclusion." [my emphasis]
Stars and Strips carries a story by Robert Burns of the A********* P****, Troop cuts herald shift in US approach, in which he writes:

Are the Taliban under enough military pressure to compel them to enter serious peace talks with Kabul? Robert Gates, the soon-to-retire defense secretary, thinks not - at least not before the end of this year. But recognizing that Afghans and Americans alike are weary of war, Gates concedes that the current troop-intensive U.S. approach is not sustainable.

So the U.S. troop withdrawal will accelerate next year, with all 30,000 of the "surge" troops that Obama ordered to Afghanistan expected to be gone by September 2012, leaving about 68,000 U.S. troops and a few tens of thousands from other coalition countries. As the force shrinks, so will the scope and ambition of the U.S.-led military campaign. ...

The shift is a setback for the war's current commander, Gen. David Petraeus, the author of the military's guidebook for counterinsurgency. A year ago, Petraeus and the likeminded commander he replaced, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, were talking about a "fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign" in Afghanistan as the key to turning around a stalemated war. [my emphasis]
Kevin Baron reports for Stars and Stripes in Petraeus: Drawdown plan 'more aggressive' than military leaders wanted 06/23/2011 that our Savior-General Petraeus is laying down his own prospective alibis. He probably is right to assume that his boss in the White House won't retaliate against him in any way for publicly undercutting the Administration he is soon to start serving as the CIA Director:

Gen. David Petraeus said President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan drawdown plan was "more aggressive" than military commanders recommended, but he supported the president’s decision.

Petraeus’ remarks came Thursday during his Senate confirmation hearing to be the next CIA director, less than 24 hours after Obama announced he would remove 33,000 surge troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. ...

For days leading to the announcement, reports had surfaced that Obama would reject the advice of his generals by favoring a quicker withdrawal.

Petraeus said Obama's decision removes troops faster than he, Mullen and Central Command’s Gen. James Mattis had wanted, but he presented the president with a range of options.

Petraeus told Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Mich., that some had called for him to resign in opposition to the president’s decision.

"Our troopers don’t get to quit. And I don’t think commanders should get to consider that," he said, speaking more passionately and asking for more time to make a statement. [my emphasis]
But will Obama punish him in any way for publicly trashing him as a quitter, which is how I read that comment? I'll believe it when I see it. Certainly Dianne Feinstein gushed over him as the incoming CIA Director. "My own view is you're going to be a terrific asset," she told him.

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