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December 07, 2011

Just Another Depressing Day At The Office
Posted by Michael Cohen

Cutcaster-photo-800882247-Bad-day-at-the-officeBesides the fact that we're getting a torrential downpour here in New York, scanning today's headlines kind of makes me want to crawl into my happy place and rock back and forth.

First, comes news that General John Allen, commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has been privately telling congressional delegations and others that he disagrees with President Obama's plan for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and wants to maintain higher troop levels into 2013. Its shocking I know that an American general wants to keep US soldiers on a battlefield longer than his civilian overseers. That never happens.

But what is so maddening about this is, 'what part of civil-military relations' is unclear to Allen. It seems to me that there is a chain of command for Allen to make his concerns known; referencing them to congressional delegations and others is a sure-fire way for that news to leak to the media (which I suppose is the point). All that does, of course, is put political pressure on Obama to go along with Allen (also the point) and delay troop withdrawals further (the ultimate point). 

I know this has sort of become par for the course in Afghanistan; with a steady stream of American generals contradicting the president and both privately and publicly trying to undermine his policy decisions - but it doesn't make it any less outrageous or aggravating.

Of course, Obama is hardly blameless here. This is what happens when you fail to maintain tight control over your own military leaders and let them do whatever the hell they want in the field. John Allen is way out of his lane here, but ultimately the failure for the hash that US policy in Afghanistan has become lies with Barack Obama. If you don't want generals doing things like this how about exercising some damn civilian control over them.

Next, Politico discovers that people in Washington occasionally have different views about Israel than AIPAC. It turns out that the folks at CAP and Media Matters refuse to kowtow to AIPAC's party line on US policy toward Israel . . . and as a result they get utterly shameless attacks like this lodged against them:

"Either the inmates are running the asylum or the Center for American Progress has made a decision to be anti-Israel,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC who is now a fellow at the center-left Progressive Policy Institute. “Either they can allow people to say borderline anti-Semitic stuff” – a reference to what he described as conspiracy theorizing in the Alterman column – “and to say things that are antithetical to the fundamental values of the Democratic party, or they can fire them and stop it.”

The Alterman op-ed that is referenced to is here. It's not my cup of tea, but it takes quite a reach to call this even borderline anti-Semitism or Alterman an anti-Semite in general. Of course calling Matt Duss, Ali Ghraib, Eli Clifton or MJ Rosenberg "anti-Israel" or claiming they are expressing views antithetical to the values of the Democratic Party simply because they disagree with Israeli policies that are driving the Jewish state over a cliff is also depressingly par for the course - and additionally a complete load of crap. (That Matt Duss, in particular, is one of the single best DC-based analysts writing about the Middle East today merits mention here as well.) 

Also worth mentioning that Block's comments would be accurate if appropriating land from Palestinians, severely restricting their mobility and preventing them a right to self-determination are reflective of the values of the Democratic Party. Thankfully they are not. 

In the end, the issue here is not that CAP and other progressive groups are breaking with the Administration on Israeli policy (though it's nice to see them do it on this and on a host of other issues. Ben Armbruster for one has been crushing on his coverage of Leon "The Sky Is Falling" Panetta). The issue here is that those in the bizarrely and wrongly named "pro-Israel community" want to police the discourse on what people can and cannot say about Israel and US policy toward it. Diverge from the accepted nomenclature, apparently, at your own peril.

Finally, there is this tidbit from Andrew Exum on the future of COIN. As is now the wont among COIN advocates who have seen their population centric dreams for Afghanistan fizzle out, Exum makes the argument that we can't afford to forget our COIN lessons because, after all, it is the future of war (and also apparently the past):

According to the Correlates of War dataset, roughly 83% of the conflicts fought since the end of the Napoleonic Era have been civil wars or insurgencies. And while scholarship (.pdf) suggets more recent civil wars are less "irregular" than those fought during the Cold War, it's safe to assume irregular wars will continue to be phenomena military organizations will wrestle with . .  it is a mistake to assume the U.S. military will never fight these wars again. We've done that before, with disastrous results

Actually the disaster was that we fought these wars in the first place! And here's why they were disasters -- because the United States is quite ineffective at fighting population centric counter-insurgencies like the kind advocated for in 2009 for Afghanistan. Indeed I was pleased to see that CNAS just released a report recognizing that a COIN mission in the Hindu Kush might not be sustainable. As the old joke goes, better nate than lever.

Still I'll make a deal with the COIN folks; I'll recognize that we should keep COIN knowledge in the cupboard (but way in the back behind the fondue kit and the can of waxed beans) if you loudly acknowledge - indeed even shout to the hills - that every time someone recommends fighting a counter-insurgency this is really, really, really bad idea and that the United States lacks the core competency to do it effectively. In the end, friends don't let friends do population centric COIN. And after all, it wasn't like you were all too shy about saying that it's something we could - and should - do in 2009. 



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So nice really nice!

Good post. Thanks. I agree, that counter-insurgency is bad idea for the United States.
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Thank you for the posting, very good news.

General Allen is already on record disagreeing with his commander.

Jun 28, 2011
Obama Troop Cuts Went Beyond Largest Withdrawal Offered By Top General

Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, nominated to replace Gen. David Petraeus as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan,

The admission came during questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during Allen's nomination hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services committee.
GRAHAM: The option that the country has chosen through President Obama is to withdraw 10,000 this year, all surge forces gone by September. Is it fair to say, General Allen, that was not one of the options presented to the president by General Petraeus?
ALLEN: It is a more aggressive option than that which was presented.

The reason Allen disagrees is that the ANA, unlike what its U.S. trainer says, is a paper army. Lieutenant General Caldwell is full of crapola.

LtGen Caldwell, chief ANA trainer, spoke to ANA strength, now at 170,000, on Oct 13, 2011: "There has been a tremendous surge. You know, we talked last time I was here about the surge that most people heard about when we do really call it the Afghan surge. They literally have almost doubled this force in the last two years."

General Caldwell also described ANA capabilities: "And then, of course, watching the growing professionalization of this security forces over this time period. . .What's also important is that we've really established internationally recognized and certified programs of instruction."

All of which differed just a tiny bit from the October DOD "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan." The report noted that:
* "The ANA has grown dramatically over the past two years and the majority of this force was fielded without receiving any professional training at the branch schools."
* "The ANSF [army & police] continues to require enabling support, including air (both transport and close air support), logistics, ISR, and medical, from coalition resources to perform at the level necessary to produce the security effects required for Transition."
*"Although recruiting and retention are continuing at a strong pace, if the high levels of attrition seen during this reporting period continue, there is a risk that the ANA will not be able to sustain the recruitment and training costs currently incurred to achieve the October 2012 growth goal.

The ANA -- no professional training, no combat support or combat service support capability and high attrition -- even before entering combat. Good luck.

Advice on how to treat generals from Give-em-hell Harry:

"I didn't fire him [General MacArthur] because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail." -- Harry Truman

The blog article very surprised to me!

çok etkileyici!

Yes, Obama is hardly blameless here.

son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quartThe ANA -- no professional training, no combat support or combat service support capability and high attrition -- even before entering combat. Good luck.ers of them would be in jail." -- Harry Truman

Maybe true.


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Good post. Thanks. I agree, that counter-insurgency is bad idea for the United States.

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