Generaal McChrystal, de Amerikaans opperbevelhebber in Afghanistan, is op het matje geroepen door president Obama vanwege zijn negatieve uitlatingen over zijn politieke leiding in een artikel in Rolling Stones. Hoewel hij daarover zijn verontschuldigingen heeft aangeboden, blijkt uit deze rel hoe slecht – zo niet hopeloos – de, door hemzelf geinitieerde, ‘counter insurgency’ strategie in Afghanistan uitwerkt.
Normaal gesproken zou deze generaal moeten worden ontheven van zijn post en zelfs worden ontslagen, maar dat zou/zal in feite de erkenning van het falen van de Amerikaanse strategie in Afghanistan inhouden – (weer) een moeilijke beslissing voor de veelgeplaagde president Obama..
Ondertussen groeit de tegenstand tegen deze oorlog onder het Amerikaanse volk: 53 % meent dat zij de kosten niet waard is, blijkt uit een recente opiniepeiling.
By Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL — The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan was recalled to Washington on Tuesday after he was forced to make a "sincerest apology" over a magazine article in which he and unnamed aides criticized and lampooned senior Obama administration officials.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in charge of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, managed last year to persuade Obama to send thousands more American troops to the conflict to back his new counter-insurgency strategy to rescue the failing war there.
In the article, in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone magazine, an aide ridicules Vice President Joe Biden — who had opposed the troop surge for Afghanistan — while another aide described U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ricahrd Holbrooke as a “wounded animal.” McChrystal is quoted saying that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, who also opposed the extra troops, “covers his flank for the history books.” An aide calls national security adviser James Jones, a retired general, a “clown." Only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets good reviews from McChrystal’s staff.
“It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard,” McChrystal said in a statement…
The Runaway General (Michael Hastings in RollingStone.com)
The Runaway GeneralStanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House
..From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military’s preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation’s government – a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinistas" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it.
As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out. After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn’t send another 40,000 troops – swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half – we were in danger of "mission failure." The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president’s ass…
Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three-month review to re-evaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position." For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics – a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.
In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted. On December 1st, in a speech at West Point, the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It’s expensive; we’re in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words "victory" or "win," Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as many as McChrystal had requested. The president had thrown his weight, however hesitantly, behind the counterinsurgency crowd.
Today, as McChrystal gears up for an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the prospects for any kind of success look bleak…
When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal’s side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan – and he wasn’t hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It’s all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there’s nothing for us there."..
Even proponents of counterinsurgency are hard-pressed to explain the new plan. "This isn’t a classic operation," says a U.S. military official. "It’s not going to be Black Hawk Down. There aren’t going to be doors kicked in." Other U.S. officials insist that doors are going to be kicked in, but that it’s going to be a kinder, gentler offensive than the disaster in Marja. "The Taliban have a jackboot on the city," says a military official. "We have to remove them, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t alienate the population." When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. "This looks like CT-plus!" he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting…
Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we’re picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.
McChrystal calls Marjah a ‘bleeding ulcer’ in Afghan campaign
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
..The operation in Marjah is supposed to be the first blow in a decisive campaign to oust the Taliban from their spiritual homeland in adjacent Kandahar province, one that McChrystal had hoped would bring security and stability to Marjah and begin to convey an "irreversible sense of momentum" in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.
Instead, a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Barack Obama’s plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war.
There aren’t enough U.S. and Afghan forces to provide the security that’s needed to win the loyalty of wary locals. The Taliban have beheaded Afghans who cooperate with foreigners in a creeping intimidation campaign. The Afghan government hasn’t dispatched enough local administrators or trained police to establish credible governance, and now the Taliban have begun their anticipated spring offensive.
"This is a bleeding ulcer right now," McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.
"You don’t feel it here," he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, "but I’ll tell you, it’s a bleeding ulcer outside."
Throughout the day, McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he’s under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress…
McChrystal recall culminates months of tensions with White House
By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The White House decision to order Afghanistan commander Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Tuesday to leave a flailing war and answer to President Barack Obama about comments he and aides made in a forthcoming magazine article culminates months of tension between the military and political leadership over how to conduct the war and who’s in charge.
The friction between the military leadership and the Obama administration began almost immediately after the president took the office last year and has grown as the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.
It reached its apex in December, when Obama gave an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and set a date — July 2011 — for American troops to start withdrawing, which goes against the principles of counterinsurgency that guided the military in the latter part of the Iraq war.
Military commanders said privately that the White House didn’t understand war; White House officials said the military didn’t understand political realities…
In a White House briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the president remained committed to the July 2011 timetable to start drawing down troops, but he noted that Obama also said he’d review those plans late this year.
"The president is committed to that timeline, and he’s also committed to making sure that we have a full review at the end of this year, as he announced in his West Point speech," Burton said. "And we will go from there."
If Obama accepts McChrystal’s resignation or fires him, it would be the second time under Gates’ tenure that a high-ranking military official has resigned over controversial comments made in a magazine piece. In March 2008, then-CENTCOM commander Adm. William “Fox” Fallon resigned over remarks he made to Esquire magazine criticizing the Bush administration.
Gates replaced him with Petraeus.
U.S. intelligence: ‘Time is running out’ in Afghanistan
By Thomas L. Day and Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL — As the U.S. and its allies try to overcome logistical hurdles and rush some 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan in 2010, intelligence officials are warning that the Taliban-led insurgency is expanding and that "time is running out" for the U.S.-led coalition to prove that its strategy can succeed.
The Taliban have created a shadow "government-in-waiting," complete with Cabinet ministers, that could assume power if the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails, a senior International Security Assistance Force intelligence official said in Kabul, speaking only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of ISAF policy.
As the Obama administration and its European allies face dwindling public and political support for the eight-year-old Afghan war, the Taliban now have what the official called "a full-fledged insurgency" and shadow governors in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, including those in the north, where U.S. and other officials had thought the Islamic extremists posed less of a threat.
The Taliban’s return to the northern provinces, including Baghlan, Kunduz and Taqhar — which McClatchy reported Aug. 28 — poses serious security, logistical and political problems for the U.S.-led ISAF and Karzai’s government.
The northern region is under the command of German forces, but they and other European contingents operate under restrictions imposed by their governments that limit offensive operations against the Taliban…
Experts: U.S. has no long-term political strategy for Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is focused on meeting its July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but it has no political strategy to help stabilize the country, current and former U.S. officials and other experts are warning.
The failure to articulate what a post-American Afghanistan should look like and devise a political path for achieving it is a major obstacle to success for the U.S. military-led counter-insurgency campaign that’s underway, these officials and experts said.
The result is "strategic confusion," said Ronald E. Neumann, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005-07…
The focus on a withdrawal is creating mounting concerns inside and outside the administration that the president’s July 2011 timetable is obstructing the development of a long-term political strategy for resolving such key issues as the Taliban’s rejection of Afghanistan’s constitution and democratic parliamentary system of government.
"There was a general consensus (at last week’s Central Command conference) that we don’t have much of a political strategy," said a former senior U.S. official who also attended the session, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "As a result, the other things going on in that country are disconnected tactics to try to get to an unstated goal."
Such a political strategy should chart "a pathway to the future shape of a peaceful Afghanistan and its relationships with its neighbors and the wider world," British diplomat Shercliff wrote. "At the end of that pathway is a steady-state situation: an Afghanistan . . . robust enough to sustain its own economic and political stability, and repel the likes of al Qaida from setting up shop there."
"We have a great many people working hard to produce progress," said Neumann, the former U.S. ambassador. "But there is no common definition of what that progress is. No one knows if we’re getting there and we don’t know if we can’t get there, and that produces strategic confusion."
While the military’s counter-insurgency strategy is well understood, "there is plenty more uncertainty over the political strategy which needs to complement ISAF’s (International Security Assistance Force) work," wrote Simon Shercliff, a British diplomat, on his Internet blog after a two-day conference last week of U.S. officials and outside experts at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. "Everyone agrees that we need to develop one, but there is little consensus on what it should look like."
Congress, too, appears primarily concerned with the July 2011 timeframe, which coincides with the beginning of the 2012 presidential and congressional election campaigns…