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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obama's Afghan Turnaround?

Former General Stanley McChrystal put President Obama into a near impossible position and President Obama may have turned that into a deciding turning point in the Afghan war.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and nominated Gen. David Petraeus to replace him while affirming support for a counterinsurgency strategy encountering problems.

The dramatic shift came a day after McChrystal's disparaging comments about America's civilian leadership surfaced, and reignited the national debate on the war in Afghanistan -- now in its eighth year with a June death toll of coalition forces that is close to becoming the highest of the war.

Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation "with considerable regret" and named Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, to take over pending Senate confirmation.

Folks like Joe Liberman and John McCain are fond of saying...

General Petreaus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency

That's because that is true both figuratively and literally. With the successful campaign in Iraq, Petraeus showed the world how to run a counterinsurgency manual. Meanwhile, his actual counterinsurgency manual was published in 2006, shortly before he went to Iraq. Petraeus is taking over with the Afghan theater in disarray but then again, nothing liked more dire than Iraq circa the beginning of 2007. Petraeus has an opportunity to make a case in every history book as America's greatest military person.

Afghanistan has three x factors: the rules of engagement, the timeline for withdrawal, and most importantly, Karzai. Immediately, we'll see if Petraeus will make the rules of engagement. The confirmation hearing should also be a pre qual to his battle over a timeline. Karzai remains the biggest concern. In Iraq, however, no one thought that Nuri Al Maliki could be a great leader right up until he was. Will Karzai go the way of Maliki or the South Vietnamese?


xformed said...

ROE are a function of "NCA" (National Command Authority). While the basis ("Standing") ROE are always in effect, the supplimental modifications are carefully managed, and not generally subject to choosing at the tactical level.

Background: ROE are not to manage an engagement, but to control the onset of combat action, and to limit our forces to "proportional use of force."

That being said, the rules flow from the white House, as every kinetic action has National effects.

When I was tasked to roll up my sleeves in this area, as a middle grade officer, I was deployed to the Indian Ocean and the Med in 85-86, which culminated in the bombing of Libya. That was before lawyers forced their way into the tactical jobs to be the arbitrators of what the language meant.

What it means in the field is the individuals have to keep within the bounds as limitations are eased, and then removed by issuing numbered (pre-approved lists) supplimentals.

Big picture: It's not up to Gen P to have the final say. Just like how many troops got sent, the C-in-C has that role. The problem lies that high...civilian control of the military game rules.

mike volpe said...

All of that is true but the General on the ground has input and the more credible the general, the more the input. While of course, ultimately, this is the CinC's decision, Petraeus can get anything he wants in the theater if he fights hard enough for it.

xformed said...

That's always the case. I don't believe the President wants to bring the hammer down, part of the "maybe if we're nicer" view of life.

I'll predict General P can argue for them, but they will stay pretty much the same.

It doesn't appear the President regards the input from the military very highly before this occurrence, and will most certainly be jaded from now on.