Volkomen terecht heeft president Obama generaal Stanley McChrystel op staande voet van zijn Amerikaans en NAVO opperbevel in Afghanistan ontheven. Verrassend – en politiek gezien heel handig en verstandig – is zijn aanwijzing van generaal Petraeus, chef van McChrystel, als diens vervanger.
Militair gezien betekent dit een hoogst uitzonderlijke functionele demotie van Petraeus. Het pleit voor diens loyaliteit dat hij deze overplaatsing heeft aanvaard – en waarschijnlijk zelf heeft aangeboden.
Plaatst men dit hele gebeuren in een bredere context, dan stijgt de twijfel over het welslagen van de Amerikaanse/NAVO strategie in Afghanistan – en rijst de vraag in hoeverre de militarisering van het Amerikaanse beleid is doorgeslagen. Enkele artikelen in de, kritische maar deskundige, Britse Guardian en Amerikaanse The Nation en Right Web, werpen hier fel licht op.
..Obama forced McChrystal’s resignation because he said that while would tolerate debate on the war policy, he would not tolerate the kind of division created by the article – in which the general and his staff accused the US ambassador to Kabul of undermining the war, called the president’s national security adviser "a joke", and mocked the vice-president, Joe Biden. There was also indirect criticism of the president as "uncomfortable and intimidated" by senior military officials. McChrystal left the White House within minutes of being dismissed at a short meeting and did not attend a conference of Obama’s Afghan policy team shortly afterwards, which included many of the people insulted by the profile in Rolling Stone magazine. The article prompted a frenzied debate about McChrystal’s future, underpinned by doubts among politicians and in the military as to whether the war can be won…
..Now McCrystal is on his way to Washington to face the music by meeting Obama who, as you can see from the above video clip, is none too happy with the general he has previously had reason to slap down. But the media story behind the story is also fascinating. First off, there was a fuss about whether or not McChrystal was speaking to Rolling Stone’s writer, Michael Hastings, on or off the record…
In Iraq, he helped to transform the US army from an organisation built to fight conventional wars against industrialised enemies
Counterinsurgency is not working, say experts, and critics warn that replacement strategy indicates more of same
..Obama insisted that in sacking McChrystal he was making a change of personnel, not policy. The appointment of General David Petraeus, the architect of the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, was a signal that Obama does not plan to shift from the plan he committed to last year.
But the Rolling Stone story has focused attention on the serious divisions and personality clashes among those in charge of the military and political strategies. That in turn has led to further questioning of whether McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy is working.
There is growing scepticism in Congress about rising casualties, the delay to some combat operations and a lack of confidence in the Afghan government. It is also a conflict with no end in sight. It is now America’s longest war. Increasingly, it is called Obama’s war.
Two of the most senior diplomats to have worked in Afghanistan in recent years told the Guardian that McChrystal’s departure would help to force a full review of a counterinsurgency strategy which is being increasingly attacked by policy experts as unworkable..
America has settled into being a nation perpetually at war. In this climate it’s no surprise generals sometimes get out of control
Barack Obama has a problem with America’s generals that is unlikely to be solved quickly or easily, whatever the outcome of the Stanley McChrystal affair. The disrespectful behaviour of the US commander in Afghanistan and his aides was symptomatic of a more deeply rooted, potentially dangerous malaise, analysts suggest. This week’s events might thus be termed a very American coup.
One reason for Obama’s difficulty lies in his own inexperience. As a greenhorn commander-in-chief and a Democrat to boot, Washington watchers say Obama has had scant opportunity to win the military’s respect, let alone its affection. His unease with his violent inheritance in Afghanistan and Iraq is evident.
Another reason appears to be the willingness of American conservatives of all stripes, in an increasingly polarised society, to buy into the "wimps in the White House" narrative peddled by General McChrystal’s army staffers. It echoed rightwing criticism that Obama, who has never served, is personally unfit to lead.
It is not a big step from there to outright accusations of cowardice. "The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge," wrote New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on Tuesday. "The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it – or had the courage to pull the plug."
But perhaps the main reason why Obama’s problem with the generals is bigger than McChrystal is the continuing impact of the post-9/11 legacy. George Bush defined the US as a nation perpetually at war. The Pentagon produced a theory to suit: the Long War doctrine postulating unending conflict against ill-defined but ubiquitous enemies. Unquestioning patriotism became an official ideology to which all were expected to subscribe…
Whatever misgivings he may harbour about his uppity generals, Obama remains largely at their mercy while he perpetuates the idea of the US as a nation at war and pursues the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is already resisting this December’s White House policy review and next July’s "deadline" for the start of an Afghan troop withdrawal. Petraeus, meanwhile, last week refused to rule out the deployment of yet more troops – a potential second Afghan surge…
While U.S. officials insist they are making progress in reversing the momentum built up by the Taliban insurgency over the last several years, the latest news from Afghanistan suggests the opposite may be closer to the truth.
Even senior military officials are conceding privately that their much-touted new counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold and build" in contested areas of the Pashtun southern and eastern parts of the country are not working out as planned despite the "surge" of some 20,000 additional U.S. troops over the past six months.
Casualties among the nearly 130,000 U.S. and other NATO troops now deployed in Afghanistan are also mounting quickly..
Obama, who last November set a July 2011 as the date after which Washington would begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has said his administration will conduct a major review of U.S. strategy and whether it is working at the end of this year.
The latest polling here shows a noticeable erosion of support for Washington’s commitment to the war compared to eight months ago when Obama agreed to the Pentagon’s recommendations to send the 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to bring the total U.S. presence there to around 100,000.
An additional 34,000 troops from NATO and non-NATO allies are supposed to be deployed there by year’s end.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Thursday, 53 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan, which last month, according to most measures, exceeded the Vietnam conflict as the longest-running war in U.S. history, was "not worth fighting". That was the highest percentage in more than three years.
The same poll found that 39 percent of the public believe that Washington is losing the war, compared to 42 percent who believe it is winning.
While public scepticism about the war appears to be growing, the foreign policy elite, including within the military, also seems increasingly doubtful for a number of reasons…
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal confronts the spectre of a collapse of U.S. political support for the war in Afghanistan in coming months comparable to the one that occurred in the Iraq War in late 2006.
Last Thursday, McChrystal’s message that his strategy will weaken the Taliban in its heartland took its worst beating thus far, when he admitted that the planned offensive in Kandahar City and surrounding districts is being delayed until September at the earliest, because it does not have the support of the Kandahar population and leadership.
Equally damaging to the credibility of McChrystal’s strategy was the Washington Post report published Thursday documenting in depth the failure of February’s offensive in Marja.
The basic theme underlined in both stories – that the Afghan population in the Taliban heartland is not cooperating with U.S. and NATO forces – is likely to be repeated over and over again in media coverage in the coming months.
The Kandahar operation, which McChrystal’s staff has touted as the pivotal campaign of the war, had previously been announced as beginning in June. But it is now clear that McChrystal has understood for weeks that the most basic premise of the operation turned out to be false.
"When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them," said McChrystal, who was in London for a NATO conference.
He didn’t have to spell out the obvious implication: the people of Kandahar don’t want the protection of foreign troops…
(The Washington Post)