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Monday, September 21, 2009

Will Obama Override McChrystal?

Today on Special Report Charles Krauthammer relayed an interesting timeline. The president replaced General Mckiernan with General McChrystal in May. Here is what the President said all the way back on March 27th.

Today, I'm announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce, that I ordered as soon as I took office. My administration has heard from our military commanders, as well as our diplomats. We've consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, with our partners and our NATO allies, and with other donors and international organizations. We've also worked closely with members of Congress here at home. And now I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people.

The situation is increasingly perilous. It's been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. And most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces.

So, let's review. In March, the president announced a new strategy. In May, he fired the general in Afghanistan and brought in his own. Now, that General wants tens of thousands of more troops for this effort and warns of failure without them.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential
assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

How did the President respond to this request?

President Barack Obama is warning U.S. commanders that he's "skeptical" about whether more troops will make a difference in Afghanistan, saying he'll approve an upcoming request only if the forces fit into a strategy to beat back al-Qaida and protect the United States.

"Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy I'm not gonna be sending some young man or woman over there — beyond what we already have," Obama said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'm 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."

This statement is all parts troubling, absurd, and totally disingenuous. How can you be satisfied that more troops are needed unless more troops are there? Worse than that, President Obama is saying that a strategy still hasn't been finalized. That flies in the face of his statement on March 27th that a new strategy was formulated. He brought in a new General to implement that strategy. Now, that General wants more troops.

So, we have a president with near zero foreign policy experience and even less military experience proclaiming that he's not certain that the General, with thirty plus years of both, knows what he's talking about. Worse than that, this General is the one that Obama wanted to implement the strategy that supposedly started on March 27th.

To be fair, President Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld the day after the November 2006 elections. The surge wasn't announced until the end of January. In between, November and January, the troops were fighting without a coherent strategy. (most would say that they were fighting without one the whole time up until that point) So, we can't necessarily expect the President to have a strategy formulated immediately.

Still, if you're on the ground in Afghanistan, you are going to battle with no overriding strategy right now. The President, having claimed opposite six months ago, is saying that there is still no strategy. He's hinting that he will not take the recommendations of the generals on the ground. Since taking over as president, President Obama has yet to show that he is committed to victory in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the GWOT period. This latest fiasco is more evidence that commitment to victory is not his main priority.

It's really simple. You follow the recommendations of your generals or you fire your generals. Lincoln went through Generals like Liz Taylor goes through husbands before settling on US Grant. Obama brought in his guy and now he refuses to give his guy the manpower the General is asking for. As such, we have a former State Senator with scant foreign policy experience overriding a life long military person. That's dangerous and it's unacceptable. Some point soon, the president will have to decide whether to follow McChrystal's recommendations. If he's unwilling to do so, he needs to replace McChrystal and figure out an exit strategy. If the president is unwilling to fight to win, then the only option is withdrawal.

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