Friday, June 25, 2010

Yankee, come home?

The most significant thing about the Rolling Stone article, "The Runaway General," that apparently led to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation this week was not the remarks made by Gen. McChrystal or his inner cicle disparaging the Obama administration. Nor was it the unblinking reporting about the profane warrior culture of McChrystal's Afghanistan command, the self-proclaimed Team America. These are the people we want, and need, to stand post on the wall protecting our country (in fact, we could use a few of them now — and a wall — on the Mexican border). Rather, it is the strong indictment of the entire Afghan war counterinsurgent (COIN) strategy. It led me to wonder, why are we still in Afghanistan?
But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there's nothing for us there."
In March 2009, President Obama said this about the United States policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan:
So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just...

Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.
We presume that the major players in the Obama administration, so derided in the Rolling Stone article, are using this leadership crisis (military and civilian) to assess our "Af-Pak" policy. The president should inaugurate the new Afghanistan command with an Oval Office address that updates his March 2009 remarks with a clear assessment of our efforts so far and a statement of the path forward.

1 comment:

Janet said...

You really expect O to make a decision? A defined strategy? Say something where Americans can hold him accountable?

Nah, no way. Wiggle, weasel, just avoid anything that says, "Yes or no."