Archive for the ‘patraeus’ tag
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. — “The Runaway General,” Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, June 25 edition
And now, before the above prophetic story even hits newsstands, McChrystal is no longer the man in charge. But it’s not clear that under the once-again leadership of Gen. David Patraeus, the war in Afghanistan is any more winnable.
Much has been made of McChrystal’s remarks in the above story about top senior leadership in Washington, none greater than that of the Obama administration, which today relieved the former general of his duties. Thus, the above article, while an informative and, for most part, well-reported vignette of the man once leading the United States’ counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan is irrelevant, at least as it relates to McChrystal. And again, before it even hits newsstands.
Despite all the hullabaloo about the story this week, the most interesting and meaningful portions of it aren’t about McChrystal at all but about the increasingly stalled, some would say, failed, efforts in that war-torn nation. No one knows where Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, is hiding. Probably in a hole somewhere safe and sound in the hills of Pakistan. He is almost certainly not in Afghanistan. So, why are we?
Quite simply, as everyone surely remembers, he and his hysteric followers were there once. Just not anymore. Now, and here’s one similarity to Iraq, we are there in a nasty stew with nary an exit in sight.
“Into the breach,” as The New York Times phrased a headline today, comes Patraeus, to help reverse deteriorating circumstances once again. The key difference?
In Iraq, General Petraeus was called in to reverse a failed strategy put in place by previous commanders. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus was instrumental in developing and executing the strategy in partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who carried it out on the ground. Now General Petraeus will be directly responsible for its success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq.
Not very heartening. The referenced strategy is a carry-a-stick-lightly counterinsurgency that mostly prohibits using firepower in order to ensure increased protection of civilians, this, much to the chagrin of soldiers, making them almost analogous to powerless cops.
According to Hastings’ article:
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”
That crude Hiroshima/nuke reference notwithstanding, we can only hope that Patraeus’ other characteristics will win the day. Here, The Times attempts to lay the path:
By helping to pull Iraq back from the edge, General Petraeus won a reputation as a resourceful, unorthodox commander and has since been mentioned as a candidate for president.
But Afghanistan is a very different war in a very different country. Where Iraq is an urban, oil-rich country with an educated middle class, Afghanistan is a shattered state whose social fabric and physical infrastructure has been ruined by three decades of war. In Iraq, the insurgency was in the cities; here, it is spread across the mountains and deserts of the country’s forbidding countryside.
Indeed, to prevail in Afghanistan, General Petraeus will need all of his skills — and a dose of good fortune at least as big as the one he received in Iraq. At the moment, every aspect of the war in Afghanistan is going badly: the military’s campaign in the strategic city of Kandahar has met with widespread resistance from the Afghan public; President Hamid Karzai is proving erratic and unpredictable; and the Taliban are resisting more tenaciously than ever.
To turn the tide, General Petraeus will almost certainly continue the counterinsurgency strategy he devised with General McChrystal: protecting Afghan civilians, separating them from insurgents and winning public support. But he will also have to convince his own troops, who are increasingly angry about the restrictions on using firepower imposed to protect civilians.
And General Petraeus will probably also try to employ some of the same novel tactics that worked so well in Iraq. Most notably, he will continue to coax Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with promises of jobs and security. And he may even try to strike deals with senior leaders of the Taliban as well as with the military and intelligence services in Pakistan.
A former aide to General Petraeus in Iraq who is now in Afghanistan put it this way: “The policy is to make everyone feel safer, reconcile with those who are willing and kill the people you need to.”