The Struggle for American Policy Continues


"They reached no consensus, so three or four more such meetings are being scheduled. “There are a lot of competing views,” said one official who, like others in this article, requested anonymity to discuss internal administration deliberations.

Among the alternatives being presented to Mr. Obama is Mr. Biden’s suggestion to revamp the strategy altogether. Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Mr. Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells,primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.

The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan."  NY Times.


Biden's reported position is fairly close to what I have been advocating, except that I think that there are people inimical to US interests within Afghanistan whether or not they could be called "Al-Qa'ida."   They should continue to be dealt with from several bases within Afghanistan using forces available from a much reduced US contingent as well as "allies" available from a "rent an Afghan" program analogous to the "Sons of Iraq."

Reliance on the use of unmanned bomber aircraft should be cut back a lot.  The targeting task seems to be beyond our skill level.

Training of Afghan forces should continue.

I would not oppose the noble idea of a COIN war in Afghanistgan if I did not think it likely to fail from a lack of long term political will.  If we go down that road, the American people will quit on the war in a few years.  pl

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6 Responses to The Struggle for American Policy Continues

  1. Dan says:

    “I would not oppose the noble idea of a COIN war in Afghanistan if I did not think it likely to fail from a lack of long term political will.”
    This is it in a nutshell. What reasonable expectation should anyone with even a basic knowledge of US history have that the people would tolerate a 10-20-whatever year war to transform a country in South Asia? None, right?
    So why do we have so many folks behaving as if this commitment will be tolerated? I’m stumped.

  2. WILL says:

    ahh, b/ everyone aske where does Petraeus weigh in?
    andrew exum of abu muqwamma provides he link. human terrain blah blah blah

  3. VietnamVet says:

    I hope during the extended discussions the participants agree on the meaning of the various proposals. Last night on NewsHour the high level discussion on future strategy was between COIN (fighting everybody) verses Anti-Terrorism (only killing Al Qaeda). The basic conundrum is that America is unwilling to spend the blood and treasure to really pacify the “AfPak” theatre. And, even if America went ahead full steam, it is not sure that it would even succeed. The Soviet Union and British Empire failed.
    At least now the President is using the formally verboten term “occupation”.
    The Spanish never pacified the Apache. America pacified New Mexico and Arizona with settlers, left over Civil War veterans, and forced tribal resettlement. With remote sensing and drones and a pull back to Kabul, the “Indian Country” outside of American control just expanded.
    Will the discussions ever raise the likelihood that the Long War is unwinnable? A Western strategy of ending the Neocons’ “Holy War” and returning to a policy of containment, the blood and money being tossed around the Hindu Kish Mountains would end.
    On the other hand, even before America withdraws from Afghanistan, all hell could break loose because the current Israeli government will bomb Iran before the Ayatollahs obtains nuclear weapons.

  4. One of the advisors to McCh. is a French analyst, Etienne de Durand.
    An article in Le Monde (Paris) indicates Durand is among the more skeptical while noting the majority of advisors want a surge. The desired timing of the surge corresponds to outcomes in 2010 which would impact the US elections. Voila….
    “C est un aspect décisif pour la
    suite des evenements, souligne
    Etienne de Durand qui raconte
    que la majorité des experts consul
    tes par le general McChrystal pen
    chai! pour un tel « surge », en plus
    d une accélération de la formation
    des forces afghanes M Obama se
    décidera t il vite ? Pour des raisons
    logistiques, un nouveau déploie
    ment de troupes américaines pren
    drait environ six mois Pour faire
    sentir ses effets en 2010, annee
    electoralement importante aux
    Etats Unis, le renfort devrait donc
    être lance des maintenant.”
    Also, Durand is concerned the Americans do not grasp cultural issues sufficiently:
    “De même. Etienne dè Durand
    conteste t il l’idée, tres en vogue
    côte americain, que les problèmes
    en Afghanistan sont imputables sur
    tout a la corruption dans I entoura
    ge de Hamid Karzai, ou a ses accom
    tances sulfureuses Un faux debat,
    juge ce chercheur En faisant ce pro
    ces a M Karzai, les Occidentaux
    minent leur propre appui dans le
    pays et projettent leurs propres
    conceptions culturelles, inadaptées
    a la réalité afghane « qu’il f out pren
    dre telle qu’elle est» Le debat sur
    l’Afghanistan n est pas fini •”

  5. WILL says:

    from the above-cited Petraeus link
    ” A successful counterinsurgency strategy does, of course, have traditional offensive and defensive kinetic military components, including a subset that is the kind of operations associated with counterterrorist forces.
    Conventional military operations obviously enable you to clear areas of extremist insurgence elements and, together with special operations forces, to stop them from putting themselves back together. The core of any counterinsurgency strategy though is that it must focus on the fact that the decisive terrain is the human terrain, not the high ground or river crossing, though those features do remain of importance.
    Focussing on the population can, if done properly, achieve a number of important effects. First and foremost of course, it can improve the security of the population, which is all important, and thereby help local authorities extend basic services to the people. A population-centric focus can also help to delegitimize the methods of the extremists, especially if you can contrast your ability and willingness to support and protect the population with the often horrific actions of extremist groups.
    Indeed, exposing the extremist ideologies, indiscriminate violence and oppressive practices of extremist movements can help the people realise that their lives are unlikely to be improved if under the control of such movements.
    For the strategy to work, moreover, it’s also necessary to find ways to identify reconcilable members of insurgent elements and to transform them from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution. That is not only important from a security standpoint in the local area, it’s also important in generating the kind of momentum that can result in a spread of thinking that is time to reject resistance and embrace political participation.
    The goal, of course, is to mobilise local opinion in opposition to violent ideologies, and on this point I might note that it was British deputy in Iraq, Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb, also a former 22 SAS, armed with lessons he’d learned in Northern Ireland, who was one of those who was in the development of the concepts of reconciliation that enabled us to capitalise on the so-called Anbar Awakening, and to help transform it into a broader Sunni Awakening in Iraq in 2007. I might note that Lieutenant General (retired) Sir Graeme Lamb is now in Kabul by the way, helping General Stan McChrystal develop concepts to guide the reintegration of reconcilables in Afghanistan. ”
    [Extra Paragraph breaks Supplied by me for easier reading]
    What are missing in his overall remarks is that is truly clueless is that a Palestine Centric Approach would defuse the whole shooting match. Petraeus, a true NeoKon is wholly bereft of any strategic sense of why the heathen rage.
    Maybe, Obama does. At least he is working on Israel-Palestine on his first year in office rather that waiting till his last.

  6. sd nadh says:

    Pat, to have the scaled back forces and foothold you propose and Biden seems to want (and my apologies if you’ve discussed this already), just how many troops are we talking about? As well, what operations would they undergo, what kind of equipment would they have, and where would there the bases be? Where they are now? Other?

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