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May 14, 2009

Af/Pak Skepticism
Posted by Michael Cohen

The New York Times reports today that House Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned about the Obama Administration's policy in Afghanistan.

Congressional Democrats are voicing growing unease over the Obama administration’s national security policies, including the seemingly open-ended commitment in Afghanistan.

According to the House Appropriations Committee chairman, David Obey, the Congress is going to keep the Administration on a short leash:

Mr. Obey said he would give the White House a year to demonstrate progress, just as he gave the Nixon administration a year to show progress in the Vietnam War inherited from the Johnson administration.

“With respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, I am extremely dubious that the administration will be able to accomplish what it wants to accomplish,” Mr. Obey said last week. “The problem is not the administration’s policy or its goals. The problem is that I doubt that we have the tools there that we need to implement virtually any policy in that region.”

Now to some extent a year one timetable is a bit arbitrary, but Obey is 100% correct in doing what a GOP Congress did not do for 6 years - hold the President's feet to the fire on national security policy.  A couple of weeks ago I expressed hope that the Administration's Af/Pak policy was primarily counter terrorism focused, but in the weeks since I've become increasingly concerned that things are moving in a more COIN-focused direction, as the selection of Lt. Gen McChrystal to run the Afghan war suggests.

There are a lot of folks in the Obama Administration - and outside - who think nation building is the correct course of action in Afghanistan. And what begins as a limited COIN/CT operation can quite easily devolve into something far more involved. It will be difficult for President Obama to resist the temptation to do more in Afghanistan.

Hopefully an engaged Congress can make sure that we don't go down that road.


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The administration is clueless about an Afghanistan strategy.

May 11, 2009

Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen on Leadership Changes in Afghanistan From the Pentagon

SEC. GATES: After consultation with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of Central Command, and with the approval of the president, I have asked for the resignation of General David McKiernan. He will remain in command of both ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan until such time as a relief can be nominated and confirmed. I am today recommending to the president that Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal be nominated to replace General McKiernan as commander U.S. Forces Afghanistan. . .

Q : Can you talk even in general terms about what might take place differently on the ground, as far as the prosecution of the war?

SEC. GATES: No, I don't know.
ADM. MULLEN: I think -- I mean, in some ways, we're learning as we go here. I mean, we're -- what General McKiernan has recommended, in terms of the troops that are going there now, are the ones that we're resourcing. But I'd also certainly want to hear from new leadership what their beliefs are once they get there, get on the ground and make some recommendations about how to move forward as rapidly as possible.
So I'm not aware of any changes. And I wouldn't speak to exactly how they're going to -- how they'd fight it, although I've been briefed, for instance, on, you know, how it's going to apply in the south here over the course of this year.
But certainly with new leadership, there will probably be some fresh views, which we will have very, very good discussions about.

Q: Admiral, you said, we can and must do better. And so I'm surprised you don't have any more solid idea of how we need to do better.

ADM. MULLEN: I can't think of a more important decision than putting in new leadership, with respect to that, and then having the impact that is so critical.

Q: Actually the secretary said, we must and can do better. Any thoughts on how?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think, that's the challenge that we give to the new leadership. How do we -- how do we do better? What new ideas do you have? What fresh thinking do you have? Are there different ways of accomplishing our goals? How can we be more effective? The admiral and I aren't the source of those ideas. General McChrystal and General Rodriguez are. And that's what we expect from them.

Q: Let me ask it a different way. One of the criticisms of General McKiernan was that he hadn't implemented a joint campaign plan, essentially an implementation of the way the strategy would be used on the ground. When the new leadership gets there, do you have a sense that then they will provide new feedback that could change the Af-Pak strategy as we know it? And what might it be?

SEC. GATES: Well, I -- first of all, the new strategy is a strategy approved by the president. And it is a whole-of-government strategy. If there are any changes that they would recommend, it would be in the military part of that strategy.

So it's: "No, I don't know" and "we're learning as we go here."

Reminds me of the Lone Ranger (kemosabe) and Tonto.
Kemosabe comes from quien sabe (sp.) = who knows
and tonto (sp.) means stupid.
So when the Lone Ranger talks to Tonto you've got Who Knows talking to Stupid.

Or, Gates and Mullen, Mullen and Gates. Thousands of people in the Pentagon, the National Security staff and the Joint Chiefs Staff and they don't have a clue.

One year? That's a double Friedman unit. This is progress?

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So I'm not aware of any changes. And I wouldn't speak to exactly how they're going to -- how they'd fight it, although I've been briefed, for instance, on, you know, how it's going to apply in the south here over the course of this year.

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