Is UKs CGS trust of the US Afghan Policy Well Founded?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jumpinjarhead, Sep 23, 2009.

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  1. Gen. Richards has been quoted as saying:

    "Richards cautioned that counterinsurgency takes time, as it did in Iraq, but expressed confidence in U.S. President Barack Obama and his military team.

    "I believe, under the catalyst of President Obama's leadership, and with Gen. McChrystal doing the detailed work in Kabul for him, that we will soon get the formula right in Afghanistan too," he said."

    How can we square this with the apparent waffling from Obama in his Sunday marathon sessions on the TV networks as to the right strategy for Afghanistan. This is even more serious due to McChrystal's clear, professional assessment that politicians will not like as it does not give them any wiggle room.

    We will need to watch very closely to see what happens as to McChrystal's request in the White House and that may then tell us if Gen. Richards' polite statement of trust is warranted.

    If the far left of Obama's support base has its way, McChrystal will be told to go pound sand. There is even talk among some pundits (take it for what it is worth) that there may be a deal in the works for Obama to pull the govt option from his health care juggernaut but to placate the far left that will be outraged, he will reduce our footprint in Afghanistan as the first step in the US creeping quietly away into the night.

    Worrisome times indeed.
  2. It is indeed worrying.

    I read Clinton's reply in the AFP and was left shaking my head:

    I thought McChrystal was the top General and expert in COIN. So who are these other very expert military analysts that know better?

    I think this has the potential to turn into, to use an American parlance, a major clusterf*ck.
  3. Not really, McChrystal could be playing the politicians at their own game. John Simpson was making this point the other day. The same warnings were made 3 years ago over Iraq when the generals went looking for troops for the surge. US generals play a harder game than our own, who are generally obedient servants to their political masters. General Dannatt the obvious exception. I have a lot more faith in a US plan than anything our own generals conjure up, (Basra springs immediately to mind). McChrystal might have over stated the position regarding timelines in Afg.

    If Obama declines the request for reinforcements he will have to shoulder the blame if it all goes wrong. I can't see him taking that option.

    Obama won't stand a chance of re-election if he is seen to have stitched up US Military, Republicans will have a field day.

    "In the 70 pages of his 60-day progress report distributed on Thursday to members of the NATO Council, McChrystal calls for more troops in Afghanistan, although he argues that improving the allies' commitment to civilian reconstruction is even more important.

    McChrystal now wants to divide Afghanistan into regional danger zones, classified as 1, 2 or 3 depending on the level of threat, which would diminish the importance of the current division into four geographic zones (north, south, east and west). In addition, McChrystal's plan calls for limiting the NATO effort to hot spots in the future. The plan is to secure the peace in 15 to 20 critical provinces, partly through massive military deployments but also through even greater civilian efforts.

    To be able to implement this strategy, however, McChrystal would have to eliminate the current restrictions on where troops can be deployed.

    For McChrystal, setting clear goals for Afghan security forces is even more critical. Under his new plan, the size of the Afghan national army would be increased to about 250,000 troops and that of the Afghan police to 160,000 officers by 2013."
  4. Where are these troops to come from? The 82 ABN Div's tour has just been "extended" by a couple of months to allow it's replacement 12 months between tours. Yes, the US Army is STILL running units at 14-15 months on ops, 12 months off ops. And some of our units bleat when they do more than 6 months in every 30!

    If the US military wants more troops in Afghanistan, it would be right and proper that they first resolve their position in Iraq. :wink:

    Now that the UK is effectively out of Iraq, it hardly warrants any news any more - hence the focus on Afghanistan. The US too has managed to switch media attention quite effectively, but that doesn't mean to say Iraq has disappeared. As of now, there are still about 130,000 US troops in Iraq and it is only slowly reducing. And even when the drawdown is complete(??), the plan is to leave 35-50,000 in country "to attend to Iraqi troop and police training, counterterrorism and other duties." Compare these numbers to the 62,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan.
  5. Another 6000 troops already on the way and a request for a further 10,000 troops for 2010. We don't know what McChrystal has requested yet, but it does sound "tight".

    Gen. David H. Petraeus disclosed yesterday that American commanders have requested the deployment of an additional 10,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year, but he said the request awaits a final decision by President Obama this fall.

    Petraeus acknowledged that the ratio of coalition and Afghan security forces to the population is projected through 2011 to be significantly lower than the 20 troops per 1,000 people prescribed by the Army counterinsurgency manual he helped write.

    "If you assume there is an insurgency throughout the country . . . you need more forces," Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the Pentagon has not yet forwarded the troop request to the White House.

    Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, testified that the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is based on a plan to concentrate forces in "the insurgency belt in the south and east," rather than throughout Afghanistan.

    Obama "doesn't have to make a decision until the fall, so the troops would arrive, as planned, in 2010," she said.

    The U.S. military has 38,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the number is projected to rise to 68,000 with deployments scheduled for this year. Those deployments include a 4,000-strong contingent of trainers from the 4th brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, 17,000 other combat troops, a 2,800-strong combat aviation brigade and thousands of support forces whose placement was not publicly announced, the Pentagon said.

    If approved, the additional 10,000 troops -- including a combat brigade of about 4,000 troops and a division headquarters of about 2,000 -- would bring the total approved for next year to 78,000, officials say.

    In a television interview Sunday, Obama voiced some skepticism about further troop increases, saying he had "resourced properly" the strategy. Asked how he would handle requests from commanders for more troops, he said: "What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always result in an improved situation. . . . There may be a point of diminishing returns."

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned why Obama did not announce the additional 10,000 while unveiling the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. "To dribble out these decisions, I think, can create the impression of incrementalism," he said.

    Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich) told reporters Tuesday that he thought the president was reluctant to make all the troop announcements at once. But Obama also did not want to be seen as turning down military commanders in wartime, so he agreed to grant all the requests for 2009, Levin said.

    Flournoy said the administration also remains "open" to further expanding the size of the Afghan national army and police force, which plan to increase their ranks to 134,000 and 82,000, respectively, by 2011. On Tuesday, the top U.S. general in charge of training Afghan forces said at a Pentagon news conference that an initial proposal -- yet to be approved -- would double the ranks of the Afghan army and police beyond those numbers.
  6. As usual, some thoughtful points from Nigelib. I extracted a few things that caught my eye in particular.

    To the extent our generals push back on our political leaders, (and I am not confident they do this as often and as forcefully as their duty requires), I believe this is a function of the hard lesson learned in the Vietnam War where silence of our senior military officers, or even worse collusion, in response to proposals and decisions of our civilian masters contributed greatly to our ultimate defeat.

    As for Obama feeling constrained to follow the lead of his military advisers for Afghanistan, I think this much depends on what else is in play in terms of the overall assessment his handlers make as to what it will take to maintain his support base. By this I mean I do not believe Obama (and more importantly his handlers) have any principled regard for the US military and, if anything, they have a disdain for it generally.

    In addition, "national defense" appears to be largely an abstraction to most of the Obama administration (and Obama's handlers beyond the government) in that their preferred focus is on so transforming the US internally in its social and economic structures that the US will thereafter have much less concern for external threats since the US will then be so much more "liked" by our current international antagonists.

    Thus, if Obama and his handlers perceive there is more to be gained (or conversely less to be lost) politically in an overall sense, I think it is conceivable that Afghanistan could be "traded" for some other issue(s). As suggested in my original post, if it appears politically advantageous to change the health care plan in a way that will get it passed but at the same time will alienate his far left base, this effect could be offset by a draw down leading to withdrawal in Afghanistan.
  7. A few years ago, I read an excellent academic paper discussing the ill-effects of the Weinberger-Powell doctrine on US foreign policy (flexibility). I cannot for the life of me remember who wrote it or in which publication/journal it appeared.

    In essence, it bemoaned the issue that by making it national security doctrine that you only go in big, to ensure success, you prevented smaller interventions as the deployment costs would be simply too extortionate. Moreover, when allied with the 2MTW hold-win doctrine, you couldn't intervene anywhere else except at miniscule scale. Catch 22.

    Hence screw ups in Somalia and non-intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo save for a little hardware from the air.

    Conclusion of the paper was that the military should not be the prime drivers in national security policy and doctrine as they tend to tie the hands of civilian policymakers too tightly. Civilian policymakers should be given far greater leeway in using and abusing thee military for their own foreign policy adventures.

    The arrival of Rumsfeld and Cheney in 2000 saw that all reversed.

    Shame such a critique was/isn't available for looking at the opposite side of the coin: the UK.
  8. To the extent our generals push back on our political leaders, (and I am not confident they do this as often and as forcefully as their duty requires), I believe this is a function of the hard lesson learned in the Vietnam War where silence of our senior military officers, or even worse collusion, in response to proposals and decisions of our civilian masters contributed greatly to our ultimate defeat.

    I wish our military leaders had learned the harsh lessons of Vietnam, 10 of my former colleagues would still be alive for starters.

    Considering we were ahead of the US back in 2003 in terms of hearts and minds and COIN, we have watched US Military surge past, such as they are streets ahead in 2009. They are self critical, willing to learn by their mistakes, willing to properly fund and politically savvy. Furthermore they have a defence industry that is acutely responsive and can ramp up as required. The sense of urgency is obvious, eg MRAP production levels.

    Compare with UK, where even talk of "shopping lists" has subsided, no point in figuring out if certain equipment might save lives because we don't have it and even muggins turn is postponed if we have a semi outspoken general to take the top job.

    We are too, intellectually comfortable, mean time giants of men are being blown to pieces in the killing fields of Afg, where casualty rates are headed towards 25%. Inevitable if they are continually exposed to a shocking level of risk. I simply don't understand the tactics being used against IED.

    Respect to the fallen and injured, but I fear our soldiers have been badly let down.