Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our War In Afghanistan Cannot Be Won Without Obliteration!

Our War In Afghanistan Cannot Be Won Without Obliteration!

“Those Who Cannot Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It.”

-George Santayana-

No One Has Ever Won A Military War In Afghanistan. That’s The Truth. So, I have a plan that I think would accomplish our goal which, I assume, is to make Afghanistan safe from the Taliban and, therefore, the development of terrorists who might potentially decide to attack other countries.

The Afghan plan we are currently executing is a military plan which, originally, was supposed to result in the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the obliteration of the Taliban. Another reason for being there, and in Iraq, was, in the words of Bush, to take the battle over there so they will be too busy fighting each other to plan any future 9-11’s.

In some ways it has worked, at least in taking the war to them; however, for me this is immoral because it means that lots of innocent non-American people get killed in exchange for the safely of innocent American lives. I find that immoral in that it says that American lives are worth more than Afghan or Iraqi lives. That’s simply not true; a life is a life is a life…

“A Person Needs A Little Madness, Or Else They Never Dare Cut The Rope And Be Free”

- Nikos Kazantzakis-

At Last, An Afghan Plan

by Leslie H. Gelb

Kevin Lamarque / ReutersChopper crashes killed 14 Americans in Afghanistan

On Monday, ratcheting up pressure on Obama to decide on a surge. Leslie H. Gelb reports he's ready to act—but not even his advisers know what he'll do.

President Obama is set to make his “final” decision on Afghanistan later this week or early next. Presumably, his public orations will follow shortly thereafter — and not a moment too soon, given the mounting angst at home and abroad about the delays and uncertainties. He has spent the last month in endless meetings brilliantly dissecting everyone's facts and everyone’s arguments, including General Stanley McChrystal's. Yet, for all the back and forth, it’s not clear that any of his principal national security advisers (Secretaries Clinton and Gates and National Security Adviser Jim Jones) knows exactly where he’s coming out. Perhaps he’s shared his gut feelings with political intimates like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod. Perhaps he still hasn’t made up his own mind.

Full counterinsurgency capability is a mirage. McChrystal might just keep asking for more American troops every year. Transforming Afghanistan's government and society. is way beyond our power.

The White House does a good job of muffling presidential deliberations. And they’ve put the fear of God into those contemplating unauthorized leaks. So, to divine what’s really going on, it is necessary to sift slivers from the either. No White House can totally squash that revealing either. Here’s what may be in Mr. Obama’s heart of hearts, if he could decide policy solely on the merits:

  • Stick with the goal in Afghanistan of defeating, or better yet, neutralizing al Qaeda (not much choice here) through both a counterinsurgency strategy (a la McChrystal and stepped up counter-terrorism a la Vice President Joe Biden). But begin the process now of turning the war over to friendly Afghans. Back this up with a surge of around 15,000 or so new U.S. troops on top of the roughly 70,000 already authorized. But shift operational emphasis sharply from increasing reliance on U.S. forces to seriously arming and training all friendly Afghans, giving them primary combat responsibility. And strive for a more toned-down and realistic version of nation-building, so that America can be in more of a supportive role in a couple years.

  • Make even more U.S. aid available for the government and army of Pakistan if they’ll fight hard against the Taliban, clean up their act at home and commit to improving the lives of their people. Avoid all rhetoric suggesting that somehow America can determine or is responsible for Pakistan’s fate.

These are much more modest and attainable objectives than Obama’s earlier proclamations of a “fully resourced” “war of necessity.” It’s not a radical shift in policy. In no way does it mean retreat or defeat. It is a policy geared to a reduced, but long-run American presence in this region--a presence politically sustainable in the United States and sufficient to combat ongoing threats. Its underpinnings are far more realistic than the assumptions of the McChrystal strategy: Afghans will never be able to create and keep a 400,000 plus-member army, plus hundreds of thousands of reliable police. So, full counterinsurgency capability is a mirage.

McChrystal might just keep asking for more American troops every year. Transforming Afghanistan's government and society is way beyond our power. It’s their culture, their history. And McChrystal’s military strategy can’t work without these non-military miracles. Finally, staying in Afghanistan forever is not the best or only path to save Pakistan from the Taliban. If Pakistan’s leaders don’t see their own vital interests, their very survival, in preventing a Taliban victory, no, repeat, NO American policy in Afghanistan can provide the missing incentives. The McChrystal strategy promises not victory, but an endless and uncertain struggle against a terrorist enemy that can already attack us from places outside Afghanistan.

Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli: Obama’s Pakistan Problem

Patrick Hennessey: Of Course More Troops Are Needed

Elise Jordan: Why Afghans Are Turning on America

But the middle course that may be in Mr. Obama’s mind has its own problems—mostly political in nature. Though it makes practical sense, it may not get him out of the political fix he’s put himself in with the American military. From the military’s perspective, they’re just doing what the boss originally asked for. In March, he spoke of Afghanistan being one of America’s central security threats and fully endorsed a counterinsurgency strategy. Then he went so far as to fire his commander in the field and give the job to Gen. McChrystal for the express purpose of fighting an all-out counterinsurgency effort. Now, McChrystal—backed fully by regional commander General David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen—is asking for a minimum of about 40,000 new troops to do the job Mr. Obama dispatched him to do. The president’s political difficulties worsened last week after Defense Secretary Bob Gates engineered the endorsement of NATO’s defense chiefs for the counterinsurgency strategy and presumptively for the 40,000 additional troops as well.

U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War

Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

By Karen DeYoung

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.


3 D.C. Area Agents, 7 Others Die in Copter Crash in Afghanistan

PDF: Letter of Resignation

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war

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A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

The reaction to Hoh's letter was immediate. Senior U.S. officials, concerned that they would lose an outstanding officer and perhaps gain a prominent critic, appealed to him to stay.

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff. Hoh declined. From there, he was flown home for a face-to-face meeting with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said in an interview. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was, how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close attention to him."

While he did not share Hoh's view that the war "wasn't worth the fight," Holbrooke said, "I agreed with much of his analysis." He asked Hoh to join his team in Washington, saying that "if he really wanted to affect policy and help reduce the cost of the war on lives and treasure," why not be "inside the building, rather than outside, where you can get a lot of attention but you won't have the same political impact?"

Hoh accepted the argument and the job, but changed his mind a week later. "I recognize the career implications, but it wasn't the right thing to do," he said in an interview Friday, two days after his resignation became final.

"I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh said. Although he said his time in Zabul was the "second-best job I've ever had," his dominant experience is from the Marines, where many of his closest friends still serve.

"There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed," he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. "I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys."

But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

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