General Jones delivers the mail

Chesty04 "National security adviser James L. Jones told U.S. military commanders here last week that the Obama administration wants to hold troop levels here flat for now, and focus instead on carrying out the previously approved strategy of increased economic development, improved governance and participation by the Afghan military and civilians in the conflict."  

"The day before in Kabul, Jones delivered the same message to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new overall commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal has undertaken a 60-day review designed to address all the issues in the war. In addition, Jones has told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that they should focus on implementing the current strategy, completing the review and getting more Afghan forces involved in the fight before requesting additional U.S. troops for Afghanistan.

The question of the force level for Afghanistan, however, is not settled and will probably be hotly debated over the next year. One senior military officer said privately that the United States would have to deploy a force of more than 100,000 to execute the counterinsurgency strategy of holding areas and towns after clearing out the Taliban insurgents. That is at least 32,000 more than the 68,000 currently authorized. "  Woodward


Jones appears to be the "flavor of the week."  He was on the "Newshour" a few nights ago for a major interview.  Now he appears in this story by Woodward highlighting his role.  Some of this "attention" is defensive and intended to fend off "log-rolling" by the usual people seeking to cause his departure from the NSC.  He is suspected of insufficient devotion to Israel and so we have had stories planted here and there about a lack of warmth between him and the president, etc.  This is a bit of a corrective.

At the same time, Jones (in Woodward's story) gives firm guidance to the military chain of command in the matter of Afghanistan.  The message is clear.  Afghanistan will be an "economy of force" theater of operations.  McChrystal will not get a lot more troops than his 70,000 odd.   He is to concentrate on disruption of groups actually hostile to the US.  Obama (and Jones) do not want to reproduce Iraq/Vietnam in Afghanistan.  The wondrous wonderfulness of Counterinsurgency (COIN) as a panacea appeals greatly to today's officers.  Military officers are always looking to get promoted.   They climb onto any "bandwagon" rolling in the right direction.  Today the "bandwagon" has "COIN" painted on the side.  Tomorrow?  Who knows what fell beast of brooding is slouching toward the dawn of some new doctrinal "revolution."  While McChrystal is occupied with this limited task, an emphasis will be placed on economic development under the aegis of an international consortium of donors.  The theory is that properity will reduce the attractiveness of Islamic zealotry.  Will it?  Perhaps..

In any event, I think that the policy in Afghanistan reiterated by Jones is the wisest available.  Will it be possible to resist the temptation to increase the size of the force there?  Perhaps.  The generals will make endless pleas for more people.  They always do.  pl

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21 Responses to General Jones delivers the mail

  1. Highlander says:

    Nice of you to show your readers that portrait of Chesty Puller. Even if a large portion of them would be appalled by his ability to lead fighting men and cause carnage for America’s enemies.
    I had forgotten that Chesty was a VMI man. He was almost as much trouble to get crossed up with as you are. There must be something in the water in Lexington.
    As for General Jones, it’ll be Shalom, Kol Tuv, and “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out”, in about 6 more months.

  2. Fred says:

    “But Jones recalled how Obama had initially decided to deploy additional forces this year. , “the president’s principals met and agreed to recommend 17,000 more troops for Afghanistan.” The principals — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Gates; Mullen; and the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair … The president approved the deployments, which included Nicholson’s Marines.
    Soon after that, Jones said, the principals told the president, “oops,” we need an additional 4,000 to help train the Afghan army.”
    Oops, we were off by 25%? I’ll see if that will fly with my boss and see if I can get a 25% raise and a little more next year?
    “We don’t need more U.S. forces,” Nicholson finally told Jones. “We need more Afghan forces.”
    So the only Afghan’s willing to fight for their principles and their country are the Afghan Taliban? What the hell are we there for, to fight and die for Karzai’s corruption?

  3. Patrick Lang says:

    We are quite proud of Chesty at the Institute even if he did keave before graduation. Lot’s of our people do that in wartime but they usually come back to finish. That is happening now as many cadets are also in the VA ARNG. As a marine I am sure that you know that he was almost as good at killing marines as Japanese, etc. Peleliu would be a good example.
    I rather doubt that a belief in personal redemption after a life of sin is a feature of modern Calvinist belief but I would be interested in being lectured about it.
    It will be interesting to see if he or Dennis Ross will be leaving any time soon. pl

  4. dan bradburd says:

    To me the most positive recent move in Afghanistan was Holbrooke’s announcement of a change in the policy on opium. If there is follow through on this, it can have significant positive impact at the local level where our previous policy accomplished nothing and alienated the farmers. As I have noted before, buying poppy at a good farm gate price might be the best choice.

  5. par4 says:

    I hope the next ‘bandwagon’ has Peace and Prosperity painted on the side.

  6. J says:

    I’d like to see the door hit the Israeli firster Mr. Ross on his backsides as he flies out landing on his keester. Gen. Jones has served/still serves our nation, whereas Mr. Ross’s career has been in serving a foreign power. I call that a BIG difference.

  7. Highlander says:

    Just like you “Mackrel Snappers” in the confession booth, we”Snake Handlers”can ask for,and find peace and forgiveness on this sinful earth. Before we check out for Harp City. At least that’s how it was hammered into my sinful young head.
    As for General Chesty Puller’s casualty count at Peleiu, well he was in damn good fighting man company with two other VMI affilated,but non grads by the name of General Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson and General George S.”Old Blood and Guts” Patton Jr. Neither one of which were particularly squeamish about taking casualties in order to obtain their objective.
    But I would really rather argue with you about those “tricky Israelis”. It’s a lot more fun.

  8. How many contractor employees are in AF-PAK?

  9. Fred says:

    Highlander says: “There must be something in the water in Lexington.” I was just there last week. You should visit, it’s a beautiful town. Washington and Lee University is literally right next door. And they have the George Marshall Museum on grounds. However it’s not the water, it’s the culture of integrity that has been in place for over 170 years. You used to find something similar at Harvard,, but that was before the rise of the MBA’s.
    I think Jones will be around longer than Ross; he’s survived worse enemies than AIPAC.

  10. curious says:

    afghanistan starts healing quickly. all sort of stress from population returning and growing will show up soon.
    2008 11.50 % GDP – real growth rate

  11. Old Bogus says:

    The new hands off attitude about opium production will make a big difference. Especially if the US Army is defending the farmers! So cool! Kinda like arming opposing Iraqis.

  12. Pat Lang,
    “what fell beast of brooding is slouching toward the dawn of some new doctrinal revolution?”
    What an outstanding clause!

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    you are becoming merely argumentative. pl

  14. J says:

    Happy 4th one and all. Stoke up the grills for lip-smackin BBQ, Ribs, Chicken, Bratwursts, Burgers, Wiener Dogs, Tater Salad, Pork-n-Beans, Tea, JD Black label, Beefeater, Johnnie Walker, so the world becomes blurry from the grill to the chair and back. Yee Haw!
    Luv having my own locker calves and such. Makes for a hearty BBQ and full stomach on the 4th.
    Again, Happy 4th one and all!

  15. Pat Lang,
    I just heard on the news that one of our troopers in Afghanistan has been “kidnapped” by the enemy. It makes one think of the Lindbergh baby. This is another one of the weird euphemisms that have sprung up in the course of these imperial wars. Our men are kidnapped and theirs are detained. Doesn’t anybody get captured anymore? I don’t suppose that my comment is really pertinent to the General Jones subject, saving only that clarifying the language might clarify objectives and lead to appropriate strategy.
    Speaking of Puller, there’s a marvelous portrayal in “The Marines of Autumn” by James Brady.
    I recommend the book.

  16. jonst says:

    My understanding of Patton was his casualty rates were not particularly high when compared to like commanders. Then again, I’m no Patton scholar.
    Dan Bradburn,
    So you think the new opium policy (announced, anyway) is a positive thing? Maybe….
    In any event I was struck by this sentence from the Times Afghan lead today” “The explosive devices — some made with fertilizer distributed to Afghan farmers in an effort to wean them from opium production — are the most feared weapon.”. Ironic (in a less than amusing way) how some things turn out.
    That line sent a chill thru my spine. I recall being singularly impressed by the tale/gossip/myth, whatever, that the NVA made ‘eating utensils’ and shrapnel, among other things, out of metal from downed American planes. I do not know that that was, in fact, true. But it always gave me pause for thought. A creative people.
    So too these farmers?

  17. JoeC says:

    Regarding Puller, one should not forget his behavior as a regimental commander on Peleliu (the forgotten battle). This is well explored in Dick Camp’s recent book “Last Man Standing: The 1st Marine Regiment on Peleliu, September 15-21, 1944”.

  18. mike says:

    Jim Jones as you know was educated in Paris, and later at Georgetown so is also hated by the Freedom Fries and anti-Washington crowd. If Highlander is anti-James-Jones, then I doubt he is or was a Marine, perhaps a wannabee.
    Regarding Chesty Puller, he has taken a lot of wrongly placed blame about the high casualties of his regiment on Peleliu. A lot of that blame started with one of Dugout Doug MacArthur’s biographers. BTW, my father served in Italy and was wounded badly in the Rapido River operation. I remember him saying that the US Army has some commanders who were much better at killing US soldiers than they were at killing Germans. That is probably why I ended up in the Corps instead of following in his footsteps.
    Most of the Marines who served on Peleliu place the blame elsewhere and not on Puller. The senior Naval and Marine commanders and planning staff did not react in time to changing Japanese tactics. Saipan with over 16,000 American casualties three months earlier should have clued them in that the Japanese were shifting to a more deliberate defense-in-depth based on stronger underground and cave based fortifications and heavier indirect firepower. There was only two and a half days of naval gunfire prior to the landing, they should have had forty days worth. The Japanese fortifications were not touched. The task group providing naval gunfire and air support had to leave early to support landing ops at Leyte.
    The Division Commander MajGen Rupertus concentrated his strength on the barely defended airstrip on flat terrain at the south tip of the island. That left Chesty’s regiment on the left flank to turn 90 degrees after landing and go north at the widest point of the island. To cover this wide front he had to put all three battalions on line so had no reserve. He started in open terrain under the guns of the Japanese on the high ground and then he had to attack that high ground. All of this was planned out not by Chesty and his staff, but was in the division oporder put out by Rupertus and his staff. Most of the officers and men of the division had no confidence in Rupertus’ leadership. Rupertus reportedly took no interest in the training on Pavuvu prior to the landing.
    To complicate things the landing craft were taken under enfilade fire and they lost 22 AmTracs and DUKWs during the landing, including a few that were carrying the regimental command echelon with most of Chesty’s regimental comm section and equipment. This deadly enfilade fire was from a coral bluff, renamed Hunt’s Point, at the north end of his landing beach and it gave the Japanese the advantage to pour steel down the entire length of the regiment as they landed. During the planning, Marines had noted this bluff and had asked for a heavy pre-landing bombardment there. Chesty had reiterated this request prior to landing. He also tasked Captain Hunt of K-company to seize the bluff, a good thing, because they found it had been untouched by naval gunfire and air strikes. It had five pillboxes constructed of reinforced concrete and blanketed by five feet of coral. The positions had four 25-mm machine cannons, a 47-mm AT gun plus machine guns and 100+ covering infantry.
    Once off of the beaches they were on coral which provided no cover and no opportunity to dig foxholes, and it also added to the fragmentation wounds from shrapnel. The terrain was all cliffs and defiles which had not shown up on the aerial photos due to the heavy jungle. Chesty and his regiment were attacking “Bloody Nose Ridge” on Umurbrogal Mt. which turned out to be the strongest Japanese defensive point on the island. Later, after 1st Marines was taken off the line for a rest, it took three regiments over two months to reduce it. They finally enveloped it which one of Chesty’s battalion commanders had wanted to do but was held back by division because of the risk of opening up the division flank. Those three regiments that finally took the ridge also had lessons learned from Chesty’s regiment and were therefore able to be more circumspect and more creative in their solutions to attacking the Japanese strong points.
    A few Marines who served there called Chesty a butcher. But the great majority loved him. His regimental CP was typically only 50 to 100 yards behind the rifle companies and way out in front of the battalion CPs. Most of the senior officers in both his regiment and in other division units knew that he was following Rupertus’ orders to attack straight ahead. Perhaps he should have refused those orders, but he knew from previous experience on Guadalcanal it was best to bring the fight to the enemy as quickly as possible in case you lost naval gunfire, air and resupply capability. The Navy pushed this also as they had lost a carrier in the Gilberts campaign because they kept it on station while army units took too long on Makin. And there was a tremendous amount of pressure all the way down from Nimitz to finish this off quickly so that MacArthur could be supported. although sadly, that was not even needed.
    In the end, Chesty’s regiment had a ton of casualties, 54% and 311 were KIA. But it is not true that it was the highest regimental casualty rate of the war although it has frequently been cited as such.

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    Mike et al
    Many have been so unfortunate as to have commanded in circumstances in which high losses were endured. Grant, Lee, and any number of names come to mind. Lt. Gen Puller was a fine officer and a great leader. I am deeply honored that his medals and mine hang in shadow boxes about ten feet apart in the VMI Museum. His, of course, are more significant than mine.
    Peleliu? The operation should have been cancelled before the landing. Operations in the Phillipines and at sea had made the whole thing unneccessary. The entire Palau Archipelgo campaign had been overtaken by events before it was executed. But, the chain of command was muddled in several ways and it was easier for the three and four stars to let it happen than to cancel it.
    You marines are proud and sensitive people, but Rupertus sounds to me like a disastrous mistake as a division commander. The whole time that the 1st Marine Division and Puller’s regiment as part of it were being decimated on Peleliu, a first class US Army Division was sitting on nearby Angaur as corps reserve. They had cleared their island and were awaiting instructions.
    Eventually they were moved to Peleliu and finished the Japanese there.
    What sort of commander made the decision NOT TO ask to have this reserve division put into the fight when they were needed? pl

  20. jonst says:

    Off topic, but I am reading a good book about an incident in the Philippines, during the War, if anybody is interested:
    Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides
    It is about the rescue, by ‘special forces’ of imprisoned survivors from the Death March. I highly recommend it. Rather moving.

  21. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    You called it.
    Saturday’s (7/11/09) WaPo reports McChrystal is seeking more forces in Afghanistan even though this runs counter to the public statements of his chain of command regarding “an economy of force.”
    It will be interesting to hear what Gates has to say.

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