US Academics Disagree with McChrystals Surge Request

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jumpinjarhead, Nov 4, 2009.

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  1. Pull the plug on the Afghan surge

    By Charles Kupchan and Steven Simon

    Published: November 3 2009 22:22 | Last updated: November 3 2009 22:22

    Although the aborted electoral run-off in Afghanistan has further weakened the country’s already troubled government, the Obama administration has little choice but to work with President Hamid Karzai. Indeed, the electoral mess paradoxically makes it easier for President Obama to decide on America’s next steps in the war. The turmoil in Kabul should convince the White House that General Stanley McChrystal’s plan to pursue counterinsurgency in the countryside is a bridge too far.

    The US commander in Afghanistan would have coalition forces adopt a “population-centric” strategy in which they address “the needs and grievances of the people in their local environment”. In Iraq, a similar strategy did succeed in undercutting the Sunni insurgency. But Iraq’s central government was in the midst of stabilising and increasing its effectiveness, enabling it to rebuild the institutional infrastructure of a functioning state. With an Afghan government of questionable legitimacy and limited efficacy in control of only 30 per cent of the country – and much of the rest under the sway of local warlords – surging thousands of fresh troops into lawless rural areas is a recipe for chasing after unattainable ends with insufficient means.

    Instead, Mr Obama should decisively scale back the mission in Afghanistan. He should do so by focusing coalition operations on consolidating control in strategically important locations as well as more stable areas in the centre and north of the country. From these secure and defensible zones, the coalition would focus on three tasks.

    First, it would build up the political and economic infrastructure of a rump Afghanistan, with the aim of establishing the robust institutions and markets essential to a functioning state. This effort is a critical priority: without a viable Afghan government, even successful efforts at counterinsurgency would be little more than an expensive palliative. Second, the coalition would carry out counterterrorism operations throughout those parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan where coalition forces would not regularly be deployed, seizing opportunities to strike at militant Taliban and al-Qaeda targets. Third, it would ramp up training of the Afghan army and police, building an indigenous force that would eventually undertake the countrywide counterinsurgency mission that Gen McChrystal now envisages for coalition forces – but without the nationalist backlash inevitably invited by foreign troops.

    This three-pronged strategy has marked advantages over more ambitious as well as less demanding alternatives. Rather than spreading itself too thin, the coalition would focus its effort where it is most needed: on creating a capable and legitimate Afghan state that can gradually assume responsibility for governance and security throughout the country. It would also contain the scope of the US and European commitment without risking a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan – a major downside of rapid withdrawal or an exclusive focus on counterterrorism.

    At the same time, the US would maintain access to bases needed to carry out counterterrorism operations and collect intelligence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coalition forces rather than the Taliban would be adopting hit-and-run tactics, striking against militant cells that would be likely to seek to reconstitute themselves in areas from which coalition forces had retrenched. By taking the initiative on the battlefield, US and Nato troops would keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda on the defensive and deny them the ability to construct training camps and operational bases of the sort that existed prior to the US invasion in 2001.

    This revamped strategy would also yield benefits in Pakistan. Coalition operations in Afghanistan have pushed the region’s most dangerous and hardened fighters into Pakistan, contributing to increasing levels of insurgent violence and destabilising the nuclear-armed country. These militants are also largely outside the reach of coalition forces; Islamabad does not permit foreign troops to operate in Pakistan, leaving the US to rely on missile strikes from drones operating only in border areas.

    Should coalition forces redeploy primarily to core regions in Afghanistan, some of the militants who fled to Pakistan would be likely to return, if only to escape Pakistan’s ongoing offensive in Waziristan. If they did, the threat to Pakistan would diminish and coalition forces could pursue the militants in Afghanistan without the restrictions they face in Pakistan.

    The US cannot afford to let Afghanistan again fall under the sway of parties with terrorist designs against the west. Neither can it afford, however, to put additional resources behind a strategy that risks drawing Nato into an ever-deepening quagmire. By pursuing a strategy that combines counterterrorism with a focus on building a functioning Afghan state and army, the US may well succeed in keeping its means and ends in balance. Only then will Mr Obama be able to sustain the steady US commitment needed finally to bring peace to Afghanistan.

    Charles Kupchan is professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Steven Simon is adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1e98cbae-c8c6-11de-8f9d-00144feabdc0.html?catid=181&SID=google&nclick_check=1
     
  2. msr

    msr LE

  3. They are academics,and not soldiers.They therefor have a limited understanding of the problem.
     
  4. msr

    msr LE

    Do explain.

    msr
     
  5. If only all academics were so scrupulous about the sanctity of science over politics and ideology as in the new religion of "climate change" where any scientist who dares ask legitimate questions about the scientific bases for the draconian positions being pressed on all developed nations today is pilloried and silenced as a heretic.
     
  6. I believe simply controlling the cities and nothing beyond was where the Russians went wrong...air power along doesn't win wars.

    On a question of warfare, I'm more inclined to believe a 33-year career soldier than anyone else.
     
  7. Complete tosh. Silenced? Like this?

    http://www.climatechangereconsidered.org/

    The fact is that the zealots are in the climate change denial camp. The scientific evidence is with those who recognise and wish to respond to anthropomorphic global warming.
     
  8. Flight

    Flight LE Book Reviewer

    There's plenty of 33 yr career soldiers with enough sense to listen to academics I hope.

    Some career soldiers are and have been academics in their own right, rare breed though...
     
  9. The first of many tough choices...
     

    Attached Files:

  10. That is the hub of this issue,...Stan Machrystal is a top notch officer, the best at COIN, his boss is a hack Chicago politican who 6 short years ago was a "community organizer." Obama would not know which end of the barrel the bullet exits.

    Obama has promised a strategy for Afghanistan since Jan. So far, we have seen nothing. HMG needs to tell the Yanks to put up or shut up.
     
  11. I would beg to differ with your adjective "complete." Perhaps some "tosh" depending on who we are talking about but here in the US at least scientists (and "mere" laymen) who have the affrontery to question Lord Gore (you do realize he is a Nobel Laureate and an Oscar winner) are branded as flat earthers, red necks, ignoramuses etc. etc.
     
  12. Fight a war on a budget and you will lose and, if I recall correctly my military training of long ago, to achieve minimum force one needs maximum presence.

    What's changed?
     
  13. Soldiers live the problem.Academics study it from the safety of their rooms.
     
  14. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    RE - this:

    SNIP
    First, it would build up the political and economic infrastructure of a rump Afghanistan, with the aim of establishing the robust institutions and markets essential to a functioning state. This effort is a critical priority: without a viable Afghan government, even successful efforts at counterinsurgency would be little more than an expensive palliative. Second, the coalition would carry out counterterrorism operations throughout those parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan where coalition forces would not regularly be deployed, seizing opportunities to strike at militant Taliban and al-Qaeda targets. Third, it would ramp up training of the Afghan army and police, building an indigenous force that would eventually undertake the countrywide counterinsurgency mission that Gen McChrystal now envisages for coalition forces – but without the nationalist backlash inevitably invited by foreign troops
    SNIP

    Hardly revolutionary: This seems to be pretty much what is underway now - albeit, perhaps, on a different scale and in different geographic regions than the good doctors might suggest.

    Coalition forces operate from bases in and around town and villages so (on paper at least) protecting and allowing reconstruction of institutions and economic activity to take place; they patrol the countryside and launch offensive ops; and they are working closely with the ANP and ANA (as noted by our recent five dead).

    Finally, his idea that the adoption of a scaled-back troop presence would allow coalition troops to strike offensively at hardcore bad boys seems remarkably myopic, given that we have a substantial and well-supported special ops capability that is tasked with exactly this. But such operatoins require timely and actionable intelligence as the Taliban is not a uniformed military: It operate from and among the civilian population. How exactly does one come by such intel? Er...

    In the meantime, it's about time Obama made his mind up. He is dithering on North Korea; he is dithering on Afghan. Though unlike the poster above, I hardly think HMG is in any position to tell him to get a move on.
     

  15. How dare you, have you no concern over the paper cuts they are exposed to?