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Petraeus to CIA Completes Cheney’s Dream, Consolidates Intelligence Within Pentagon

5:30 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Screen shot from an Army ad produced by Petraeus' propaganda machine.

Today is the day that my worst fears will be realized, and the propaganda machine that has been mercilessly promoting the career of David Petraeus will achieve his nomination to be Director of Central Intelligence.

Aside from the horrible nature of this move in putting a blatantly political operator into a highly visible position from which he can consolidate his credentials for an eventual presidential campaign (see Spencer Ackerman for a very different take on this aspect), this move can be seen as finally completing Dick Cheney’s dream of moving virtually all intelligence functions into the Pentagon. Back when Michael Hayden was nominated to head CIA, the ongoing Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)-CIA turf war was noted:

What worries some experts, however, is a shift in the balance of power within the US intelligence infrastructure as the CIA is weakened and the Pentagon expands its role. For one thing, the Pentagon’s intelligence activities largely escape congressional scrutiny. ”Rumsfeld and Cambone claim that everything they do is a military operation,” says Richard Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, ”[and] that therefore nothing that they do should have oversight by the House and Senate intelligence committees. But they are doing things that are clearly intelligence.”

It is precisely this ability to “escape congressional scrutiny” that has driven the move to consolidate intelligence functions within the Pentagon. Here is more from Jeremy Scahill on how this was brought about:

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. “What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing,” said Colonel Wilkerson. “That’s dangerous, that’s very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don’t tell the theater commander what you’re doing.”

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. “I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good,” says Wilkerson. “I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions.” He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld “built up initially because Rumsfeld didn’t get the responsiveness. He didn’t get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse’s mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch–read: Cheney and Rumsfeld–wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier.”

The key thing to note here is how Cheney bypassed McChrystal’s direct commander in SOCOM to dictate McChrystal’s actions. At least in regard to when those actions were in Iraq, it should be noted that McChrystal’s field commander there was none other than David Petraeus. I think Wilkerson is wrong here when he claims that McChrystal was acting without the knowledge of the field commander.   For McChrystal to be carrying out “rogue” operations at the direct command of the Vice President and bypassing his SOCOM commander, it seems inconceivable that Petraeus could not have been aware of what was happening. It seems most likely that Petraeus was both aware of what was going on and approved of it, since he is often seen as crediting McChrystal and his night raids for their effects in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. This means that Petraeus had to be aware of, and approved, Cheney’s actions that were designed to bypass congressional scrutiny of actions that would have been subject to oversight had they taken place through the CIA.

In today’s New York Times article about Petraeus’ nomination, we see that the blurring of the lines between intelligence and military functions already is almost complete:

The result is that American military and intelligence operatives are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other as they carry out classified operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Some members of Congress have complained that this new way of war allows for scant debate about the scope and scale of military operations. In fact, the American spy and military agencies operate in such secrecy now that it is often hard to come by specific information about the American role in major missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya and Yemen.

The operations have also created tension with important allies like Pakistan, while raising fresh questions about whether spies and soldiers deserve the same legal protections.

Officials acknowledge that the lines between soldiering and spying have blurred. “It’s really irrelevant whether you call it a covert action or a military special operation,” said Dennis C. Blair, a retired four-star admiral and a former director of national intelligence. “I don’t really think there is any distinction.”

I’m sure Dick Cheney approves of Obama’s move to put Petraeus in charge of the CIA, because it is clear that Petraeus fully subscribes to Cheney’s vision of a Pentagon in control of the most important intelligence functions, fully protected from congressional oversight.

Suicide of Prominent Iraq, Afghanistan Vet Highlights “Sham” of Pentagon Statistics

4:48 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Clay Hunt, widely known and respected for his work in multiple groups assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, took his own life on March 31. Hunt’s death is particularly tragic because he appeared in a Public Service Announcement for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and generally was a voice for veterans getting the help they need for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. From the IAVA obituary:

It is with unspeakable sadness that IAVA staff and members across the country mourn the loss of Clay Hunt. Clay took his own life on March 31st. Clay served in the Marine Corps for 4 years before being honorably discharged in 2009. He served in an infantry squad in Iraq in 2007 where he was wounded in action, receiving the Purple Heart Medal, and then in Afghanistan in 2008 as a Scout-Sniper.

Clay was an incredible advocate for our generation of veterans, a person of tremendous character and a fierce believer in the value of service. He was a leader for IAVA, participating in Storm the Hill 2010 and playing a critical role in the Ad Council campaign. In addition to his involvement with IAVA, he was active with Team Rubicon and Ride to Recovery. Clay believed his mission in life was to serve both in and out of the military. That is something that we will never forget.

Equally tragic is that the Pentagon will not count Hunt’s death among the spiraling figures for military suicides. From CNN:

“In my mind he is a casualty of war,” she [Hunt's mother, Susan Selke] said. “But he died here instead of over there. He died as a result of his war experience. There is no doubt in my mind.”

But Hunt’s death will not be counted by the Pentagon as an official military suicide, since he left the Marines in 2009.

“That is a complete sham in my opinion,” [Hunt's sniper school partner Jake] Wood said. “Part of Clay was killed in Iraq. Part of Clay was killed in Afghanistan and the rest of him was killed in Houston, Texas. And if that is not reflected in military statistics, it’s a shame.”

Last September, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen addressed the increased rate of military suicides:

A dramatic surge in troop suicides has become the Pentagon’s top “emergency” issue, though the brass doesn’t know how to curb the tragedies. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while suicides have been on the rise since 2004, the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they have really jumped recently, forcing he and his top aides to look for a solution.

“The emergency issue for me right now is the suicide issue,” he said at a media roundtable breakfast today. Just last week, he added, five Army soldiers took their lives. “It’s a very difficult problem. There’s not a national solution,” he said.

After admitting that the rate is likely to increase further before declining, Mullen then acknowledged that returning vets also are at risk:

What’s more, he added, the surge in troops coming home may encounter troubled families when they arrive back home. “I think we’re going to see a significant increase in the challenges that we have in terms of our troops and our families because they are going to have some time [together at home] and if things have been pent up or packed in or basically suppressed or sucked up, what ever term you want to use, we’re going to see that as well,” Mullen said.

So the Pentagon knows that returning vets face a high suicide risk and yet the Pentagon refuses to include these deaths among the official suicide figures. This means, of course, that the suicide figures actually are even much higher than the Pentagon admits.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this whole situation is that the Obama administration launched its effort to support military families this week. Sadly, however, the program being launched is being used as a vehicle to rehabilitate the image of war criminal Stanley McChrystal, against the wishes of Pat Tillman’s family, who suffered greatly from McChrystal’s role in covering up the friendly fire aspect of Tillman’s death. Furthermore, the program is being administered by the Center for a New American Security, which is funded by military contractors and is involved in a campaign to sell the idea of extending the Iraq war. At a time when it should be stepping up real services for both active military personnel and for veterans, the Obama administration is playing the worst sort of cynical politics with military families. There are no words to describe the evil of this situation.

Obama Appoints War Criminal McChrystal to Support Military Families, Sell Iraq War Extension

4:42 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Late last month, I jokingly suggested that Barack Obama could emulate his “hero” Ronald Reagan by doing a progressive version of Reagan’s signature move of making appointments that are the exact opposite of the goals of the position by nominating Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of Defense and Donald Daniel Ellsberg to head the CIA.  Sadly, Obama seems to have taken a garbled version of this suggestion, as word came Sunday that Obama is creating “a high-profile initiative in support of military families” and has put war criminal and Pat Tillman cover-up leader Stanley McChrystal in charge of this operation. This is a truly Reaganesque appointment, as it is hard to imagine a military figure who has done more to harm families around the world, and now he is leading the charge to put a happy face on the devastation ten years of war has wreaked on the very small number of US families who have borne the brunt of the death and other sacrifices by our all-volunteer force.

The key point to note in examining this new program for military families is how it will be administered.  The New York Times describes it in this way:

The Joining Forces program will be guided and coordinated by the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan policy institute. The center, which is led by two military veterans, has published a series of reports analyzing stress on service members an part of its study of “military wellness.”

But it is not quite true that the Center for a New American Security is “nonpartisan”.  It is an operation founded by Democrats but is completely pro-war.  Late last month, Nathan Hodge had a revealing profile of CNAS at The Nation, which he titled “Coalition of the Shilling“.  Hodge provides this about the funding of CNAS:

But Jaffe’s argument begs the question of whether think tanks, even centrist ones, truly offer the same independence that newspapers purport to have. CNAS is an instructive case. Two former Clinton administration officials, Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell, founded CNAS in 2007 as a way for centrist Democrats to reclaim a place in the national security debate ahead of the 2008 presidential race. It was an expert triangulation: Flournoy, Campbell and their associates staked out a hawkish (or, as they would term it, a “pragmatic and principled”) position on Iraq, opposing early deadlines for withdrawal. After Obama’s election, CNAS would emerge as a key feeder for the new administration’s national security team. No fewer than fourteen CNAS grads would land slots in the Defense and State departments. Flournoy now occupies the number-three post at the Pentagon, and Campbell is the head of the State Department’s Asia bureau.

How exactly did Flournoy and Campbell conjure up a think tank out of thin air? In addition to support from foundations like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Ploughshares Foundation, CNAS received heavy backing from the military industry. Its list of donors includes major weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and BAE Systems. It also receives contributions from private security firms like Aegis Defence Services, as well as from KBR, the logistics support contractor notorious for overbilling the Pentagon for its services in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it generates income from research contracts with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, as do others like the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

So, in reality, CNAS is a front group for the Pentagon and military contractors making sure they keep their gravy train running.  But even more informative from Hodge’s article is the information in the very first paragraph, where we see the role of CNAS in selling the idea that the US needs to keep combat forces in Iraq:

On February 25 journalist Thomas Ricks published an important scoop on his blog at Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, had requested keeping a brigade in northern Iraq beyond President Obama’s deadline for the withdrawal of combat forces. The timing of the story was intriguing. Just two days earlier, Ricks had published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for US troops to remain in Iraq long term. “I think leaders in both countries may come to recognize that the best way to deter a return to civil war is to find a way to keep 30,000 to 50,000 United States service members in Iraq for many years to come,” he wrote. The op-ed coincided with a policy brief by Ricks issued by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Washington think tank where he is a senior fellow.

Now Obama’s choice of McChrystal fits into a neat package developed by CNAS.  They want the Iraq war extended, they know this will cause a lot of grief to military families, they have worked extensively with McChrystal in the past (documented also by Hodge in the article), McChrystal needs a new job to rehabilitate his image and so they have created a job for him selling the idea of extending the Iraq war to military families.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?  Jason Leopold suggested on Twitter last night that the Tillman family might not be so pleased about this move:

Amazing that Obama admin wld appoint McChrystal 2 anything having 2 do w/military families after wht he put Pat Tillman’s family through

From the CBS story accompanying the video above, here is Pat Tillman’s mother describing her efforts to contact Obama and prevent McChrystal being elevated to head the military effort in Afghanistan when he was nominated in the summer of 2009:

Mary explained, “I wrote the book, came out in 2008, and I indicate that McChrystal was involved in orchestrating the cover-up. He falsified the Silver Star. He was very aware that Pat was killed by friendlies. And then, when he was going to be promoted to the head commander in Afghanistan, I had contacted President Obama, I e-mailed him and written a letter and contacted members of Congress, just trying to remind them that this man needed to be scrutinized very carefully. And in the end, it turned out that he was pretty much meant for that position. He was a shoo-in. Of course, he was promoted. And, that is part of the foreword.”

In 2009 Obama demonstrated that he was immune to the arguments presented by the Tillman family and he went ahead with appointing McChrystal to head troops in Afghanistan. How sad that Obama is now compounding that pain to the Tillman family by appointing McChrystal for a position which is on the surface meant to be addressing much of the harm that McChrystal himself has directly caused.

Obama now owns all of McChrystal’s war crimes by appointing him to an important position not once, but twice.

Psy-Ops on Senators Just Another Example of Military Illegally Manipulating Information

6:54 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Carl Levin (D-MI) visiting Afghanistan on January 13, 2010 and being subjected to an illegal information operation ordered by Lt. Gen. William Caldwell and Col. Gregory Breazile. (US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan photo on Flickr)

Building on the success of his “The Runaway General” article that led to President Obama firing Stanley McChrystal, Michael Hastings returns to the pages of Rolling Stone with “Another Runaway General“, where he exposes information operations, or Psy-Ops, on dignitaries including US Senators as they visited Afghanistan on “fact-finding” trips. What should not be missed when contemplating the illegal and immoral aspects of this information operation directed against the citizens of the country and high level government officials is that it is just one more instance in an ongoing pattern of information manipulation and outright deception on the part of the military in recent years. A few recent examples include the use of retired generals posing as independent military analysts to spout information coordinated by the Pentagon, intentional deception to cover up Special Operations troops digging bullets out of the bodies of pregnant women they killed in a night raid and the more recent claim by General Petraeus that parents intentionally burned their children in order to exaggerate injuries received in a US attack, to name just a few.

Here is how Hastings describes the operation and the backlash experienced when those tasked with the information operation tried to resist:

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

In addition to Caldwell, Col. Gregory Breazile put pressure on Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, who had been assigned the task but tried to refuse:

Under duress, Holmes and his team provided Caldwell with background assessments on the visiting senators, and helped prep the general for his high-profile encounters. But according to members of his unit, Holmes did his best to resist the orders. Holmes believed that using his team to target American civilians violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was passed by Congress to prevent the State Department from using Soviet-style propaganda techniques on U.S. citizens. But when Holmes brought his concerns to Col. Gregory Breazile, the spokesperson for the Afghan training mission run by Caldwell, the discussion ended in a screaming match. “It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!” Holmes recalls Breazile shouting.

The photo above is dated January 13, 2010 and documents a visit to Afghanistan by Senators Carl Levin and Al Franken. Hastings explains that Holmes and his team arrived in Afghanistan in November of 2009 with an assignment to “assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population”, but by December 2009 they were getting orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct their activities toward “visiting Americans”. Since Franken and Levin both appear on Hastings’ list of targets for the information operations, it seems virtually certain that the information operation was underway during the visit in the photo.

Note also that Caldwell is tasked with training Afghan troops.  As I have mentioned many times, the myth of claiming to be making major progress in training large numbers of troops, followed by abject failure in that regard is a signature of the career of David Petraeus, dating all the way back to his insertion in George W. Bush’s re-election efforts in 2004 with a Washington Post Op-Ed claiming success in training Iraqi troops.  How convenient, then, that Petraeus’ point man on training now would order Psy-Ops on visiting Senators who fund training, since the training myth is once again being exposed for the fraud that it is.

And, just to prove that these information operations are ham-handed and never really seem to learn from past failures, here we see Caldwell and Breazile in a Kabul reprise of John McCain’s stroll down the safe streets of Baghdad, complete with a caption they must have spent hours composing:

Petraeus Begins Media Blitz to Counter Calls for Rapid Afghanistan Withdrawal

12:59 pm in Uncategorized by Jim White

In a break from Andrew Card’s 2002 strategy that "you don’t introduce new products in August", General David Petraeus has kicked off an intensive media blitz today with the express purpose of turning public opinion in favor of a delayed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan rather than an accelerated withdrawal beginning in July 2011.

Petraeus filled the entire hour with David Gregory on Meet the Press, and as Derrick Crowe has pointed out, Gregory failed miserably at asking any difficult questions. Also, the Washington Post has published an extensive Petraeus interview.

The New York Times puts the Petraeus press offensive into perspective, describing the opposing forces at work:

American military officials are building a case to minimize the planned withdrawal of some troops from Afghanistan starting next summer, in an effort to counter growing pressure on President Obama from inside his own party to begin winding the war down quickly.

With the administration unable yet to point to much tangible evidence of progress, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who assumed command in Afghanistan last month from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is taking several steps to emphasize hopeful signs on the ground that, he will argue, would make a rapid withdrawal unwise. Meanwhile, a rising generation of young officers, who have become experts over the past nine years in the art of counterinsurgency, have begun quietly telling administration officials that they need time to get their work done.

But hang on a minute here. Things are so bad in Afghanistan that the top general must make a media blitz in order to present the concept that there are at least a few "hopeful signs". If we are to accept the premise that there are a few hopeful signs (and judge for yourself in the video whether Petraeus is successful in making the case), then we are somehow supposed to see that limited progress, in a war which is approaching its ninth anniversary, as a reason to slow down withdrawal rather than as a reason to think that we have accomplished what we can and should just leave.

From the Washington Post interview, here is the best that Petraeus can do to describe what "victory" in Afghanistan would be:

Success in Afghanistan is not unlike success in Iraq. [It is a condition] where the host nation government is able to secure itself and to govern itself, and to see to the needs of its people. Then you can add some other elements: that it contributes to regional stability and security and prosperity and so forth. In essence, it’s a country that can secure and govern itself. Those are conditions and objectives that will be achieved over time at a deliberate pace. Thinning out, rather than handing off, will be the way transition plays out.

Just wow. We are supposed to believe that Iraq is the example of success? Iraq, where violence is spiking again? Iraq, where five months after the elections, no government has formed? Iraq, where the head of the army has said US forces will be needed to keep the peace for at least another ten years?

If significant progress is needed in Afghanistan to achieve the level of "success" we have in Iraq, it’s hard to imagine how a county could be any more out of control.

It seems to me that Petraeus avoided the usual wait until September to launch his media blitz because of the horrendous Afghanistan polling result in this week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll:

On the Afghanistan war, which had been an area of strength for the president since he revamped his military strategy, 68% of Americans now feel less confident the war will come to a successful conclusion.

Petraeus simply couldn’t allow another two weeks to pass before trying to pull Afghanistan out of the toilet in terms of public opinion. At the beginning of Obama’s term, Afghanistan was the "good war" and was seen by many as where our efforts should be expended. With nearly 70% of the public now saying it can’t end well, the military is looking at a truly ignominious defeat that could see their two most beloved stars, McChrystal and Petraeus, both limping off the public stage as losers rather than moving on to illustrious political careers.

Look for Petraeus to become increasingly desperate in making the case for more time in Afghanistan. His protege McChrystal has already gone down in flames and right now Petraeus is looking at a fate nearly as bad. How many more military and civilian deaths will it take before Petraeus finally acknowledges reality and agrees to plan the rapid and complete withdrawal that more and more of the public is demanding?

Panic in Afghanistan Continues: Riot and Protest in Kabul, Dutch Leave and Graham Fears “Unholy Alliance”

9:21 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

After the deadliest month ever for US troops in Afghanistan, panic over this failed war continues to spread to new areas. Panic had appeared to reach a peak when Stanley McChrystal was replaced as head of ISAF and head of US Forces in Afghanistan. However, the situation continues to spiral out of control under the new leadership of David Petraeus. Dominating today’s headlines are peaceful anti-American protests in Kabul following the riot precipitated by four civilian deaths in a traffic accident involving US contractors on Friday, the departure of the Netherlands from the shrinking NATO coalition and fears on the part of Senator Lindsey Graham that an "unholy alliance" between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans could undermine the remaining small amount of support that remains for the war.

The Washington Post describes the protest in Kabul this morning:

Carrying banners that described America as the "guardian and master of [the] ruling Mafia in Afghanistan," and displaying images of burned and bandaged children, the peaceful demonstration of a couple hundred people wove through the crowded downtown streets led by a police escort.

The protesters, organized by the National Solidarity Party, said they were angry not only about the civilian toll from the ongoing NATO military operations in Helmand province, but about a deadly traffic accident on Friday involving an SUV driven by DynCorp International contractors that killed four Afghans.


"We poor people are not just here to be killed," said an elderly woman named Rabia, who said she witnessed the reaction to the car crash on Friday and was in Sunday’s protest. "The people were so emotional. They were throwing stones at the Americans’ vehicles. If the police hadn’t taken the Americans away, the people would have torn them to pieces. If I had the chance to do that, I would do the same thing."

When we have lost the support of elderly women to the point that they openly express a desire to help tear Americans to pieces, there really is no point to our presence any more. And Rabia is not just any random citizen–the story goes on to note that over the years she has lost three nephews to the Taliban. It seems that someone losing so many family members to Taliban killings should be among the most likely to support the US presence in Afghanistan if there is any thought among the citizenry that the US can help in any way. When she can’t support US presence, it’s all over.

At least the Dutch see the futility of Afghanistan. BBC reports on the their withdrawal:

The Netherlands has ended its military mission in Afghanistan, after four years in which its 1,950 troops have won praise for their effectiveness.

But how the Dutch came to the withdrawal decision is telling:

Nato had wanted the Netherlands to extend its mission, but the request triggered a political row which brought down the country’s coalition government in February.

This sent shock waves through other European countries, particularly Germany, where public opposition to the war is growing.

Perhaps the fact that the unpopularity of the war in Afghanistan brought down the Dutch government is what has Lindsey Graham so concerned this morning:

Asked about the growing tide of sentiment against the Afghanistan war, particularly among Obama’s base of supporters and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, Graham said he is worried about conservative and liberal forces joining together to frustrate Obama’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

"You know what I worry most about: an unholy alliance between the right and the left," Graham said. "That there are some Republicans who are not going to take a, you know, do-or-die attitude for Obama’s war. There are some Republicans that want to make this Obama’s war. . . There will be some Republicans saying you can’t win because of the July 2011 withdrawal date, he’s made it impossible for us to win, so why should we throw good money after bad?"

Graham added that liberals could also refuse to back the president’s plans in Afghanistan.

"You’ve got people on the left who are mad with the president because he is doing exactly what [former President George W.] Bush did and we’re in a war we can’t win," Graham said, adding: "My concern is that, for different reasons, they join forces and we lose the ability to hold this thing together."

Poor Lindsey. He’s in such a panic over how badly the war is going that he is among the very few people around who are willing to support Obama’s policy of continuing to escalate George W. Bush’s lost war.

More Fallout from McChrystal Failures in Afghanistan: Training Myth Exposed

9:11 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

With the replacement of General Stanley McChrystal as head of US forces in Afghanistan by his commanding officer, General David Petraeus, the fallout from McChrystal’s multiple failures continues. McChrystal has subsequently announced his intention to retire from the military, but today’s Washington Post reports on an investigation by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, exposing the grim reality behind the failed efforts by McChrystal and his team in "training" Afghan forces.

The image below was posted on the ISAFMedia Flickr stream on June 27:


The caption provided reads:

Special Forces Soldiers trained over 300 Afghanistan Civil Order Police Soldiers on zeroing their AK-47 rifles, gave a refresher course on Entry Control Points, and instructed the soldiers on proper search procedures. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carmen Cheney)

Yet, as the Washington Post reports on the inspector general report:

The U.S. military has systematically overstated or failed to adequately measure the capabilities of Afghan security forces, whose performance is key to the Obama administration’s exit strategy for the war, according to a new government audit.


The report’s principal focus is the rating system used since 2005 to measure the extent to which individual Afghan security units are capable of fighting on their own. According to U.S. figures at the end of March, only 23 percent of the Afghan army and 12 percent of the police drew top ratings.

The system, which counted the quantity of troops and equipment rather than quality of effort, was deeply flawed, the report said, and the number of capable units was probably lower. In one top-rated police district, it noted, 53 officers had been authorized and 23 had been trained, but only six officers were found to be present. Another district had 10 vehicles provided by the U.S. government, but only three drivers.

Note that in this diary I wrote shortly after Petraeus was chosen to replace McChyrstal, I pointed out Petraeus’ history with failed training attempts in Iraq and how the MoveOn ad controversy diverted attention away from those failures and his history of gaming the numbers on training. With the release of this report and its discussion by the Washington Post as well as in Petraeus’ confirmation hearings, it would appear that Petraeus will have someone double-checking his math this time around. So, even though US forces in Afghanistan will continue to make claims on training of Afghans, as evidenced by the photo above, there will be efforts to check into the basis of these claims. Whenever the next Afghanistan strategy review is undertaken, whether it is as scheduled in December or before that, it will be extremely important that accurate data be presented rather than the spin for which Petraeus and McChrystal are known.

Obama Finally Makes a Strategic Move by Replacing McChrystal with Petraeus

2:08 pm in Uncategorized by Jim White

The running joke about Obama defenders says that whenever Obama makes one his horrendous moves or continues yet another terrible policy started under George W. Bush, the defenders will claim that he is a master tactician, working many moves ahead of us, sometimes even in dimensions we can’t possibly perceive. With today’s decision by Obama to accept the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal and to ask General David Petraeus to step down one level to assume command of US forces in Afghanistan, Obama has made what I think finally is a good strategic decision on the political front.

Up front, I work from the historical fact that Afghanistan is the ultimate military quagmire. In their continued pursuit of whatever "victory" might be in Afghanistan, the Obama administration and the US military are fighting against the evidence of repeated failures by virtually every force that ever tried to take it. Putting Petraeus in charge of the final few Friedman units of this failure will spell the political end of a figure who had been seen as possibly Obama’s Republican opponent in 2012.

The political success of Petraeus has always been a mystery to me. Consider Gareth Porter’s recounting of Admiral William Fallon’s first meeting with Petraeus:

In sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus’s superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

Further, it is especially important to note that in the context of removing McChrsytal from his command, as noted by Marcy Wheeler, Obama was reinforcing the democratic institutions of strict chain of command and civilian control of the military. Closely related to those concepts is the idea that military figures are not to become engaged in political debates. Petraeus violated that concept in September of 2004, when he published an Op-Ed in the Washington Post touting the terrific progress he was making in Iraq, especially in terms of the training of Iraqis for military and police roles. Coming so close to the 2004 elections, Petraeus’ op-ed was interpreted by many as supporting Bush’s reelection campaign, which was pushing back at the time against charges that the war in Iraq was going badly. Read the rest of this entry →

Afghanistan Panic Escalates: McChrystal Summoned to Washington for Wrong Reason

6:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Barack Obama and Stanley McChrystal discussing Afghanistan strategy last May

Panic within the US government and military over the dire state of affairs in Afghanistan continues to escalate. First, in response to a constant drumbeat of failures on the military front, we had the obvious planting of the "discovery" of one three trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth in Afghanistan. Then, General David Petraeus passed out at the beginning of his Senate testimony on Afghanistan, delaying the hearing by a day. Today, however, the panic has hit its highest level yet, as General Stanley McChrystal has been summoned to Washington. The reason for McChrystal’s hurried trip to Washington, however, completely misses the mark, as he is being brought in to defend an upcoming article in Rolling Stone rather than the strategic situation in Afghanistan.

Yes, what McChrystal is reported to have said and done in disrespect to President Obama and Vice President Biden is wrong and likely worthy of his being fired. For example, this article, based on an advance copy of the Rolling Stone article, relates:

In a new magazine profile, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and his advisers appear to ridicule Vice President Joe Biden and are portrayed as dismissive of civilian oversight of the war.

The article, in Rolling Stone, says McChrystal’s staff frequently derided top civilian leaders, including special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. One anonymous aide calls White House national security adviser James Jones a "clown."


The criticism of Biden may prove the most troublesome for McChrystal. The article’s author, Michael Hastings, says that McChrystal and his staff, while preparing for a question-and-answer session in Paris, imagined ways of "dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner."

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says, according to the article, trying out a possible answer. "Who’s that?"

Such remarks should not come as any surprise to those who have been paying attention. From my many diaries on McChrystal, a picture emerges in which we see that although McChrystal is going through the motions of a "warm, fuzzy" approach aimed at lowering the number of civilian deaths, the ongoing events assigned to "rogue" elements under his command happen far too frequently to be anything other than what he really wants to occur. Over and over, McChrystal makes public statements attesting to protecting civilians, but civilians still die brutal deaths in night raids.

Because the hurried meeting in Washington is to address mere insubordination, there is no reason to believe that the situation will improve through McChrystal being fired or resigning. His replacement, (and I put forward JTF-435 Commander Robert Harward in the betting pool) would likely be someone he trained who would carry on with the same disregard for civilian lives and civilian rights.

The true failure of US policy in Afghanistan is the failure to understand that it is not possible to beat a civilian population into compliance no matter how handily their military has been beaten. Carrying a violent COIN strategy forward to the point where the UN ends its cooperation on reconstruction work because the US militarized its approach to aid is a losing strategy that will not be reviewed amid today’s escalated panic. Sadly, that tragic aspect of US COIN policy will be continued, whether McChrystal or someone else is in charge in Afghanistan.

Fred Hiatt Wants a “Full McChrystal” in Afghanistan

6:58 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Fred Hiatt is disappointed in the efforts to rein in McChrystal and present him as warm and fuzzy. (ISAFMedia photo)

Fred Hiatt has a sad this morning. In his editorial in the Washington Post, he provides his prescription for what ails the US effort in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, he wants a more violent, less lawful approach modeled after Stanley McChrystal’s efforts in Iraq.

Hiatt opens his editorial by citing David Petraeus’ testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee as comparing the US effort in Afghanistan to a roller coaster ride. He then laments that Senators on both side of the aisle found it necessary to correct Petraeus’ false claim that our trajectory is now up.

The editorial moves on to call for yet another Friedman Unit (six months) before assessing whether the current approach is working. He notes as problems the fact that we have already stated we intend to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 and that we haven’t stated clearly what form of government we seek to impose upon the Afghan people see miraculously spring up in Afghanistan.

But then we get to the root of Hiatt’s sadness:

Both of these weaknesses have been compounded by differences within the administration, which appears not to have moved past its debates of last year over whether to apply to Afghanistan a version of the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq.

"Gosh-darn it", Hiatt seems to be saying, "can’t we just turn that McChrystal fellow loose in Afghanistan the way we did in Iraq? That’s why we’re not succeeding: we haven’t conducted enough night raids, imprisoned enough civilians, hidden enough prisons from the ICRC or tortured enough!"

Yes, the McChrystal record is such a thing of pride for Hiatt. Why can’t we just extend it in Afghanistan?