This curious nugget from today’s Washington Post:
President Obama has asked senior officials for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.
Obama made the request in a meeting Monday with Vice President Biden and a small group of senior advisers helping him decide whether to expand the war. The detail he is now seeking also reflects the administration’s turn toward Afghanistan’s provincial governors, tribal leaders and local militias as potentially more effective partners in the effort than a historically weak central government that is confronting questions of legitimacy after the flawed Aug. 20 presidential election.
Let’s put aside, for now, the discussion of the merits of what would be a dramatic shift away from McChrystal’s vaunted COIN recipe. The question here is obvious — shouldn’t there have been a sufficient “province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan” included in McChrystal’s long awaited strategy “assessment”? Better yet, shouldn’t this have been part of a National Intelligence Estimate? Is there one for Afghanistan to speak of? The last time there was mention of such a report, it was 2008, and its “grim” findings left unclassified and seemingly forgotten.
To be sure, Obama has had a entire think tank (the Center for a New American Security) at his disposal — why wasn’t this information on the provinces and its local leadership and political conditions filtering through before? Ah, because every impulse of that think tank is to support and promote what Jeff Huber is now calling Stan McChrystal’s Flying Circus. Perversely, Obama actually assisted in creating this counterproductive divide between the White House and military by populating the Department of Defense and Foggy Bottom with the founders of CNAS, which seems only to exist to push this hybrid counter-insurgency/nation building kool-aid cocktail, patented by Gen. Petraeus in Iraq. And we see how well that’s going.
Then there is this second take-away quote from this morning’s WaPo piece:
“There are a lot of questions about why McChrystal has identified the areas that he has identified as needing more forces,” said a senior military official familiar with the review, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations candidly. “Some see it as an attempt by the White House to do due diligence on the commander’s troop request. A less charitable view is that it is a 5,000-mile screwdriver tinkering from Washington.”
Get those violins out. You mean, Obama isn’t ready to accept an assessment by a guy who obviously stacked his crack study group with people who thought exactly the way he did? One should be surprised that CNAS COIN-pusher Andrew Exum and neoconservatives Fred and Kimberly Kagan did not come up with anything but Surge II from their 60-day “staff ride” with the general?
Shame on Obama for putting up with this square ball jazz in the first place. Now, while he has to commission another report to make up for the gaps in the first one, coalition soldiers are being picked off and the Afghan people are no closer to peace than they were when Obama walked into the Oval Office.