You are browsing the archive for Stanley McChrystal.

Afghanistan: No Withdrawal, No Reconciliation

2:12 pm in Foreign Policy by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Back in the summer of 2007, there was a debate in the Democratic presidential primaries over whether or not the United States ought to negotiate without preconditions with our enemies. Senator Obama said he would meet with Iranian president Ahmadinejad, among others, and Senator Clinton replied that this was naive, that it would be used for propaganda purposes, and so on.

Obama eventually won out, but the criticism of his position continued into the 2008 general election. The McCain campaign doubled down on the Bush policy of negotiations as a “reward”, and they relentlessly attacked Obama as weak on national defense, cozying up with dictators – you remember the commercials.

Despite all that, candidate Obama held firm in his position that the US should negotiate with its enemies. And not just dictators and foreign leaders, mind you, but even militant groups like the Taliban. Here Obama explains his rationale to NBC’s Brian Williams:

So far, so good. He uses some really unhelpful language (what the heck is a “moderate Taliban”?) but he admits that the process will not be easy or quick. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Can’t Control His Generals – Time for Congress to Step in

5:12 am in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

One of the best parts of learning about foreign countries and their cultures is the sudden realization that these places aren’t actually foreign at all. You’re not studying an opaque alien world, you’re only looking in the mirror. As Americans, it fills us with hope to look across at, say, our progressive allies in Pakistan and note that they’re working hard, just like us, to correct and reform their country’s policies. But are we also capable of seeing the negative parallels? It’s all well and good to lecture the Pakistanis about total military subservience to a strong civilian government, but what about our own weak President and our own anti-democratic generals?

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.

When something like this happens in Pakistan, we completely lose our s**t and call them a failed state, a tyrannical dictatorship, a collapsing nuclear-armed time bomb full of apocalyptic religious fanatics and corrupt, out-of-touch plutocrats. When it happens here, it’s called a "media blitz." Oh you know, General Petraeus is just out there to "counter the growing pressure" by the American people, and hopefully force the Commander-in-Chief’s hand on war making policy. The young officer corps is simply pressuring your elected politicians to give them more time to occupy foreign lands and engage in aggressive wars. Totally normal, everything is fine.

It’s time for Congress to wake up. Petraeus needs to be reminded of exactly who he works for. The generals don’t tell us what to do, we tell them what to do. This is not Pakistan, this is the United States, and if President Obama is too weak to preserve our civilian-military order, then Congress is obligated to enforce its constitutional authority over the power – and the purse – of war. Read the rest of this entry →

McChrystal’s Revenge: Everyone Hates Karl Eikenberry

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Supporters of General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency policy are heart-broken over his firing. Not that they don’t agree with it, very few COINdinistas took the position that McChrystal should be permitted to undermine civilian control of policy as he did so plainly in the Rolling Stone piece. Support for McChrystal came instead in the form of "he’s our only hope" and warnings about ruining the war effort. Nevertheless, McChrystal was fired, and now his supporters want revenge.

The target of this vengeance is quite clear: Karl Eikenberry, US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Take a look at these snippets from across the blogosphere, keeping mind that this is just a sample of the anti-Eikenberry sentiment out there.

Josh Shahryar:

When McChrystal finally got troops, he had to figure out a way around Eikenberry’s meddling into what was supposed to be his operation.

Bouhammer:

So now I am waiting for that POS Eikenberry to be fired along with that ineffective Holbrooke. The relationship between the military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan is a two-way street. If the Ambassador and Special Envoy don’t get along with Karzai and cannot influence him or even get a meeting with him then they need to be FIRED asap and some people need to be put into place that can be effective at their job and get along with the military leadership.

Anonymous at Danger Room:

In fact, one e-mails: “It would be a travesty if we fired McChrystal and kept Eikenberry.”

Not only is McChrystal the “only one with any sort of relationship with [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai,” says this civilian advisor to the McChrystal-led International Security Assistance Force. Eikenberry “has no plan, didn’t get COIN [counterinsurgency] when he was the commander and still doesn’t.” Plus, the advisor adds: “The Embassy hates Eik. That’s not necessarily an indictment (I’m no fan of the Embassy). But it contributes to the dysfunction and it means that half the Embassy is focused on keeping Eik in line.”

Streetwise Professor:

Eikenberry was a backstabber from day one.

See the narrative building? McChrystal was doing a good job (they’ve leaked red meat to give pro-McChrystal progressives some lefty cover), it was that "POS Eikenberry" and his "meddling" that are really at fault. He’s a backstabber and dysfunctional. McChrystal’s violation of the relationship between civilian government and the military is no longer at issue, it’s practically ignored.  They’ve moved on to the blame game.

So McChrystal’s supporters want a scalp of their own, and they’ve chosen Eikenberry as their target. McChrystal and Eikenberry have been feuding for some time now, so it’s no surprise he draws the most wrath from the general’s dismissal. But if we actually look closer at the tension between Eikenberry and McChrystal, we see that the Eikenberry-haters are way off base. Their attacks are, at best, childish displays of sour grapes, and at worst, a fundamental misunderstanding of their own strategy. Ambassador Eikenberry is not at fault here. In fact, Eikenberry was right all along. Read the rest of this entry →

Rethink Afghanistan: The McGovern Bill is Free

1:30 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

In the video above, we’re asking you to contact your representative and support HR 5015, a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Now this one seems very easy to support, it’s not an immediate withdrawal, it’s a flexible, open timeline based on set, but by no means concrete, conditions. It’s not leaving tomorrow, it’s just telling the President to wrap it up. My colleague Derrick Crowe laid out the facts on why you should support the timeline. Basically, our strategy is a huge failure:

Last week, the military published an ironically titled “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” that wrapped blunt admissions of strategic collapse in typical Pentagon happy talk. Short version: Violence is up 87 percent (p. 39), the insurgency has population sympathy/support in 92 of 121 key regions, and local support for International Security Assistance Force’s mission in the toilet (p. 38-39). Oh, and we’re killing more civilians, too. Oh, and Marja is crumbling under NATO’s feet. But worry not! Unnamed senior administration officials tell us, “We are on the cusp! Moving in the right direction!”

Read the rest of this entry →

General McChrystal Has No Idea What’s Going On In Afghanistan

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Back in August, General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry produced a report titled "US Government Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan for Support to Afghanistan." In it they laid out a complete counter-insurgency strategy, including development aid and international assistance, for their mission in Afghanistan. They also provide various criteria to measure success, as well as a requirement for Interagency Quarterly Assessments which would "identify progression / regression, opportunities / obstacles, and course corrections (adjustments to policy, activities, planning or resourcing)." I certainly haven’t seen any of these progress reports from McChrystal, not to mention anything resembling a "course correction." But we do have a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office, and they say we’re screwing up horribly.

It seems that McChrystal and Eikenberry were correct in their report. If they don’t have these progress assessments, they won’t have any idea what’s going on in Afghanistan. They won’t know if their l337 COIN strategy is successful, which also means that whenever some out-of-touch politician touts these successes, he’s simply engaging in the age old art of "making shit up." McChrystal’s plan for measuring progress is absolutely required if we care at all about the truth in Afghanistan. However, the variable in this plan is not necessarily the ability to produce these assessments, but access to the sort of reliable, accurate information sources which provide the backbone of these assessments. Read the rest of this entry →

Elections in Iraq and Escalation in Afghanistan: Paying For A “Violent Semi-Peace”

9:30 am in Foreign Policy by Josh Mull

This weekend Iraqis turned out in the millions to vote in their 2010 parliamentary elections. By most accounts, it was a relative success. There were very few instances of fraud or polling issues reported. Several prominent religious leaders, including Moqtada al-Sadr, issued calls for Iraqis to defy "the enemies of Iraq" and cast their vote. And by mid-day, the government actually lowered several security restrictions (although security at the polling centers themselves remained tight).

Oh yeah, and 38 people were killed by violence. 73 were injured.

"Baghdad bore the brunt of the violence, with around 70 mortars raining down on mostly Sunni muslim areas as Iraqis headed to the polls in the second parliamentary vote since US-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A Katyusha rocket flattened a residential building in northern Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 10, officials said, adding that a second blast killed four when another building was targeted by a bomb.

Eight people were killed by mortar attacks or bombs in Baghdad that between them wounded 40. Thirty more were wounded in attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the country."

And that’s only on election day. 14 people were killed on Friday, 27 two days before that. That’s what success looks like in the US occupation of Iraq. That’s what we got for the bargain price of $710 billion, 4700 dead Americans, 30,000 wounded, 100,000 dead Iraqis, and millions of displaced refugees. And that cost is still rising. We still have over 100,000 troops in Iraq until at least 2011, maybe longer, and every day Iraqis are ripped to shreds by car bombs, suicide attacks, rockets, mortars, and IEDs. This is what a New York Times op/ed piece by Michael O’Hanlon and others referred to as a "violent semi-peace."

"As 2008 and the Bush presidency conclude, Iraq has settled into a kind of violent semi-peace. The population-protection strategy initiated by Gen. David Petraeus has been a remarkable success on balance. Its logic continues even though American force numbers in Iraq have nearly returned to pre-surge levels."

So a successful "population-protection strategy" is what leads to a "violent semi-peace." That sounds exactly like the new NATO/ISAF strategy for Afghanistan, premiered in their latest incursion into the village of Marjah, in Helmand province. The Christian Science Monitor reported last month:

Read the rest of this entry →