Permissible Arms

And three thousand miles away…

Posted in afghanistan, counterinsurgency, united states, us politics by Karaka on 22 September 2009

Hoo boy. Unsurprisingly, everyone is talking about the “leaked” redacted report from General McChrystal to Secretary Gates that broke this week over at the Washington Post; you can download a copy of the document here.

Now, I have a job, and things like jobs mean I haven’t had a chance to read through the document in its entirety yet. Small War Journal has put together a handy linklist of responses to the assessment. For a quick rundown of the document’s contents, the NYT has a good article; as does, of course, the Washington Post itself.

The Armed Forces Press has a concise view of Obama’s press position on Afghanistan right now, interesting either way but it seems important to keep in mind that he articulated this position over the past weekend, and this document was prepared August 30th. Also, bear in mind Obama’s March address on Afghanistan; his current position is something of a shift. Tim Sullivan at the Center for Defense Studies picks up on that:

So what gives? It can only be assumed that the president’s strategic objectives have shifted, or that the administration is somehow dissatisfied with elements of the military plan conceived by Gen. McChrystal. As Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung suggest in today’s Post, it’s likely some combination of the two: the commander’s forthcoming force recommendations are causing heartburn in the White House at a time when the administration is growing increasingly skittish about declining public support for the war, and is therefore thinking seriously about implementing a more limited counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan–despite the strident strategic pronouncements of its advisers six months ago, and the more recent judgments of the commander in country.

Of course, the crux of this debate is not the adoption of counterinsurgency tactics, or the requests for additional troops. It is about the goal, the reason to continue supporting the engagement there at all, and while I am not immune to the mission creep argument I confess that the statement from Obama on Meet the Press last Sunday saying he’s “not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way– you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration” has me kind of spooked.

How, exactly, can counterinsurgency tactics be effective on the ground if your leader decries thought of staying for long enough for that methodology to be effective?

Despite whatever position the American people and their politicians are formulating, and despite the fact that Obama inherited these wars from his predecessor’s foolish actions, how can the President say, eight years after occupation, that withdrawing to the point of ineffectiveness from a nation our forces helped destabilize is in any way a position America could morally uphold?

Man, I’m sure my ethics are showing, but that is simply bullshit.

[The New York Times goes further with this.]

Spencer Ackerman hits up who McChrystal’s audience was in the Assessment document, and the LA Times covers the political ground of the Assessment. Meanwhile, ground force tactics around Bagram have already shifted in line with McChrystal’s directives, Afghan forces are fighting for hearts and minds in their own towns, and roadside bombs continue to take out troops.


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