92 days of "deliberations" followed by a masterfully stage managed speech delivered in Eisenhower Hall at West Point before a captive audience of members of the US Corps of Cadets, a scattering of faculty and staff officers in blue, cabinet members, etc.
And what was said?
- 30,000 more US troops plus whatever number the NATO allies can be persuaded to contribute.
- A vast number of new Afghan Army and police to be trained.
- The additional US forces to deploy into Afghanistan by July, 2010
- Withdrawal of US ground combat units to begin a year later in the summer of 2011. This withdrawal to be contingent on conditions on the ground.
- US Civilian advisory efforts to be greatly increased to match the military build up. This increased advisory effort to continue after withdrawal of US and NATO combat units.
I was reassured to see that the cadets did not look overly impressed. There were quite a few gone away into the arms of Morpheus. The cadets with a couple of rows of actual medal ribbons or a Combat Infantry Badge from prior enlisted service in the Army looked the least interested to me.
This morning Admiral Mullen (CJCS), and Secretaries Gates and Clinton went to the senate to amplify Prsident Obama's position before the Armed Services Committee. Under questioning by Senator McCain, they said that any withdrawals from Afghanistan will be on the basis of the same sort of process that produced last night's announcement. In other words, they don't expect there to be any withdrawals before the next presidential election.
On MSNBC this morning Richard Engel reporting from Kabul said that McChrystal gave a briefing in the aftermath of the night's entertainment in which he said that the program was going to be all COIN all the way, all the way, and that the job would take four or five years at least.
Petraeus, McChrystal and Mullen must be very pleased with themselves today. This generation of flag officers has now reached a level of power in which they completely dominated this policy decision making process and got everything that they wanted.
The numbers? The Army general staff is already "fudging" the numbers. It is easy to hold people in various "paper" categories in which they seem to not be "in country" but really are there. There will be a lot more of that. In the end the actual number of Army soldiers in Afghanistan will come close to McChrystal's original request.
The withdrawal? The generals reckon that they can "manage" that decision as they did this one.
Basically, the generals and their allies "rolled" Obama on this one. They reckon that they can do it again, because he is weak willed and they are not.
The generals also reckon that they can manage public opinion over time. I doubt it
The generals do not seem to understand just how bad the economic situation of the United States really is. That is strange since so many of them end up in corporate board rooms after retirement.
The situation continues to be dominated by the phony "world war" atmosphere that has been generated on the basis of the "existential threat" posed by the onrushing juggernaut of the wold wide threat of the re-establishment of a CALIPHATE!!! (That was irony.) In fact, the actual annoying threat of the takfiri jihadis should be dealt with on the basis of police, intelligence and and SOF efforts.
The situation begins to seem a lot like Milo Minderbinder's "airline" in the novel, "Catch 22." In the book, Minderbinder shipped produce and other goods that were in short supply around the Mediterranean theater of war using military aircraft. Even the enemy participated in the scheme and everyone "got well." There is now so much money flowing into Afghanistan that everyone who touches it risks corruption, not just the Afghans. The generals are enjoying more significance, power and perquisites than most of them will ever know again. We are paying off the Taliban to keep our lines of supply open.
This has become a self-licking ice cream cone. War without end, amen.
Obama? He will have to be the camel that walks through the eye of the needle. Hillary Clinton? Her devotion to team membership is excessive. pl