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Obama: More ‘Analysis’ of Afghanistan Required

This curious nugget from today’s Washington Post [1]:

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”? [2] 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 [3], 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 [4]) 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 [5]. 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 [6]and neoconservatives Fred and Kimberly Kagan [7] 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.


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#1 Comment By air jordan shoes On October 29, 2009 @ 5:40 am

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.

#2 Comment By Luis de Agustin On October 30, 2009 @ 11:30 am

Separately this month NPR interviewed two distinguished retired US colonels asymmetrically opposed in their opinions on Afghanistan past, present and future. Andrew Bacevich barely contains disapprobation for escalation by President Obama of US involvement in Afghanistan, and subsumed his contempt for the autocratic machinery that cheers and presses the war on, while John Nagl presents a stunning affirmation of the need for the US to escalate, remain, and build a shinning city upon a hill or face wreck and ruin.

Both presentations convince, but what tips the scale in favor Bacevich is realizing he represents only his argument for disengagement vs. Nagl’s astonishingly sophisticated doublespeak in service to those who would advance professionally by continued war or realize appreciation in professional fees or investment portfolios.

The Nagl argument is a con that uses the neocon bamboozle for its model. It again brings the four horsemen to the field and misses not a beat dusting off the beasts and continuing to ride into still-to-pick-clean pastures. Such is the magic of intellectuals who can pick your pocket while blinding you with ugly smiles. Bacevich is too great a gent to strip-tell it like it is. And yet, were Mr. Nagl to tell the truth, he’d immediately be professionally punished.

If Obama goes along with General McChrystal’s demands, even ceremoniously demanding “conditions” and reducing the allocation, the preposterous strategy for this almost romantically labeled “long war,” will nevertheless enforce US oppression on an occupied country, and terminate in US ignominy. The president would confirm whose interest he serves and whose disapproval he fears, and it would not be that of the American people. They, after all, can be bought next year.

Luis de Agustin

#3 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On October 30, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

Had to google the “square ball jazz” comment. Got the source, but I still don’t really know what it means. But that’s okay, it sounds great. Good post.

The “counterproductive divide between the White House and military” isn’t because of CNAS – the DoD and State are part of the administration. Those appointments (and the roster of campaign advisers) show Obama had already bought into what the COIN-istas were selling.

Petraeus is the source of the military / WH divide. He went well beyond CNAS in picking his review team, as the Kagans exemplify. Someone from this team is the likely source of the leaking of what is called McChrystal’s report, including the three levels of troop increases, but concentrating on the “Goldilocks” middle recommendation of 40,000 troops. I think Obama has been masterful in dragging his decision out and giving himself a tiny bit of wiggle room. I will consider anything less than 40,000 combat troops engaging in COIN across the entire country as a success, given the set-up.

Luis – good stuff.

#4 Comment By Devin Weiss On March 20, 2010 @ 4:36 am

Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” provides a appealing title. It has an idea of bravery mixed confidently. You’ll find nothing Pollyanna regarding this. I will not support almost everything he tells, but he’s our president, and then for me, he inspires confidence. Which can do more for a region than any volume of backroom deals. Hope gives us energy, and energy sustains us through trying times. Boy, we’ve had them. I’m from West Texas, and I did not vote for Bush. When McCain ran against Obama, I was a citizen of Arizona, but I gave audacious hope a chance. The fight for progress and laying the foundations of prosperity will not be over. I have seen the quips of those that don’t think Obama is capable of doing it. But step back a second. Would anyone have most of us fail only to tarnish the star of an incumbent for whom they did not vote? Attempting to keep our priorities straight, let’s work together with this president and build our future.