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29 January 2010


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William R. Cumming

The Doctrinal confusion in the AF-Pak theatre continues. More evidence that WH using its clout to tamper with a very very complex military/political situation just continues to reveal that both Bush and Obama were amatuers when elected President as to military history and doctrine in a democracy (Republic) and as to civil/military relationships. I know no water coolers in AF-PAK theatre but it would be of interest to see whether the flag ranks think they have served the Nation well over the last decade. I continue to hear that few enlisted in Af-Pak theatre operate in their military MOS and junior officer corps turnover continues to devastate ops. The junior officer corps contains some gems but it does not look like the hardened military we might expect after a decade of contiuous warfare. Pehaps just burned out.The US military may not be a draft military but it also was never designed for decades long conflicts. If that is the future I think that can only be faced with foreboding.

Cato the Censor

I wondered myself. Has the general reappraised the situation now that he's actually in Afghanistan and changed his opinion about what to do? Or does this signal a real shift in policy on the part of the administration? In either case, I find it grounds for some small hope that reality is sinking in among decision makers.


Israel demands that the U.S. wage war on Iran.

The U.S. needs military capacity to do so. Therefore the need to wind down the campaign in Afghanistan.

McChrystal has probably finally got that message.

An alternative explanation is that he had a clear moment and found out the obvious - no one can win in Afghanistan.


I think POTUS has read von Clausewitz. How this was conveyed to the General is beyond my ken....

Dan M

There's been apparent motion in a more sane direction in recent weeks all along the lines of "we can make deals with the Taliban" rather than "they must be destroyed." NATO, Karzai, Hillary, and so on. Stanley is perhaps just falling into line.

I don't talk to hardly any serving officers or soldiers anymore, but i would assume people at the sharp end are more or less happy about this, since it should lead to a situation (if actually pursued) where they get shot at less often and Afghanistan's problems are more Afghanistan's to be worked out, rather than ours.

Perhaps this is just talk as a set up ("we tried to negotiate; it didn't work. Now they really must all be destroyed....") but i don't think so. It makes sense, it theoretically expands the circle of "friends" (i.e. people who may still beat their wives but will help keep the folks who really do want to attack america tamped down) and is cost-effective.

Is it naive to believe that a more sensible course is being pursued because it is more sensible (and cheaper at a time of soaring deficits)?

R Whitman

I think someone at the White House impressed upon him that the 18 month deadline to show progress is real. If he and Petraeus do notshow a lot of foward motion by then they will be replaced and deemed failures publically and the politicians will have a good case.

McChrystal and Petraeus did agree to the 18 month time interval.

DE Teodoru

There is this American colonial mentality which insists that it is not bad like 19th Century Europeans because it "buys" products of a country without running it. But it is illusory for American soldiers become first line of securing flow of natural wealth of colonized country CHEAP (not counting hidden costs to taxpayers). As soon as corrupt pro-US local government is in trouble, we deem bleeding its national assets "our vital national interest" and we send in the McChrystals to make their careers shooting from 300 yards the opposition. Alas, there’s no international conspiracy anymore for us to justify our full metal jacket shots with. And, well, they usually fail because for every one down two more pop up; so sharp-shooters call in the Air force, which blows up wedding parties or something so finally, in frustration, we outright invade....So it goes....But now there's a new twist where the military is voluntary and so the best minds become Wall Street bandits instead of defenders of the empire, leaving current stock as only asset (God save us!). As a result, mediocrities are supported by war profiteers as in Afghanistan where the war-profiteers out-number the soldiers (53% vs. 47%), so that our people rob billions before the locals get to rob anything. So guys like Karzia-- probably the cleanest and poorest guy in Afghanistan-- has to go to our ambassador and complain: “my brother finds the pot of gold empty when he gets there. Can't your guys leave a little something so he won't be so mad with me?”

This is McChrystal World of endless PowerPoints and la-la metrics, where only more is better and why is a question out of his pay grade. When you call him the "good soldier" ask yourself why Petraeus maneuvered to fire McKiernan and put in McChrystal. We learned in Vietnam that military politics is very bad for war-fighting because the mediocre ride to the top. Why repeat the worst of Vietnam and all of Iraq in Afghanistan?

Lucky for us Obama decided-- FINALLY-- that we can't afford Afghan War because Russians/Chinese have too tight a hold on oil&gas from “stans” to its north. So by end of 2011 McChrystal may be retired to maybe run Petraeus Republican presidential campaign or something. But our soldiers will come home before they have to come home hanging to the skids of helicopters again.

alQaeda is STILL cleaning up on 9/11 for we are behaving EXACTLY as binLaden said we would!


There are two dimensions to the prospect of a new loya jurga with Taliban participation, leading to a new coalition government and a cessation of much of the combat in Afghanistan. First, there is the obvious dimension: We cannot succeed in the McChrystal Plan COIN schema, and maybe even McChrystal has figured this out, after considering the impossible time deadline that he is working under (imposted by American voters, not Obama, as Massachusetts showed last week). No doubt the nearterm consequences of some reconciliation deal with Taliban, based on wiping out Al Qaeda (Bin Laden and Zawaheri's heads delivered as a proof of seriousness?), will improve situation on the ground, and lead to a whole new situation, making American draw down possible.

But here is the longer term concern that is now dawning on some policy makers and intelligence analysts. How do you deal with the spread of Wahabism and the longer term consequences of that? This has the backing, still, of Saudi Arabia and other conservative Gulf states, and the Brits love to play the religious fundamentalist card as part of longterm Great Game machinations.

If the US strategists factor in this second dimension, as they've been forced to in the Pakistan context (Saudi money behind Nawas Sharif's scheming) recently, then the shorterm gains can be garnered without the longer term dangers being ignored.



I actually thought much as you do, that the US is simply positioning itself for a future war with Iran. I commented as such on other forums, and maybe its true.

But there is a major caveat. The US has to negotiate a "victory." Meaning that the terms the Taliban agree to permit the US staying on, at least for a couple of years and then withdraw gracefully ala Iraq.

But if the US withdraws under fire, or it appears the to the public the Taliban came out ahead, it will be extremely difficult for whoever is president to get another war going so soon after spending exorbitant sums loosing two of them.

I agree The Lobby has extraordinary power in this country. But it is not unlimited.

Still, I agree that many policy makers are thinking along those lines.

Patrick Lang


"Israel demands that the U.S. wage war on Iran. The U.S. needs military capacity to do so. Therefore the need to wind down the campaign in Afghanistan"

A war against Iran would be an air war. The assets involved in Afghanistan (or Iraq) have not been committed to either of those wars.

The more likely explanation is that he and Petraeus have been told clearly that a failure to obey the letter and the spirit of their instructions will lead to relief for cause and disgrace. pl


Or maybe McChrystal is just hedging his bets. If so, he wouldn't be the first to jabber incessantly about peace while being totally committed to waging war.

DE Teodoru

To Hell with what Israel wants, Col. Lang. If it doesn't integrate with Arabs, its kith&kin, rather than be led to psychosis by Ashkenazim, it will not be there to see the end of the century. No one will attack Iran because we know that its game is game playing as was Saddam's. I only worry that the greater emigration from Israel and immigration to it will cause some Zionists to provoke another American Krystalnacht so Jews will stampede from their own homeland to become tax-slaves of Likudnik Israel, a dying garrison state. Shalom/Salam to the Semitic family!


Col Lang,

I think b and I meant that the troops would be withdrawn to remove a target against which Iran could retaliate. Not by direct attack, but by arming insurgents.

However, if all the troops are withdrawn, it brings up the question of what platform the US could use from which to attack Iran. Iraq and Afghanistan would be out. The Gulf Arab states are likely to take a pass. That leaves carriers, Diego Garcia and bases in Europe. The US would not have the same resources as were available in Kosovo or Gulf wars I and II.

I'm assuming an air war would resemble the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Bombing civilian infrastructure until Iran gives up. Not simply a hit and run on a few 'nuclear sites.'

Perhaps those aforementioned resources would be enough, but I don't think the Pentagon would happily tackle Iran with fewer resources than those employed against much weaker countries.

DE Teodoru

One of the most brilliant pieces I ever read-- which will be passed around by historians long after he is dead, was Pat Lang's "Drinking the Kool-aid"


Now read this account of the effect of 9/11 on China and ask yourself what kind of Kool-aid were they drinking?


One can only wonder if generals raised on such pabulum are the best people to retrench our projection so that we can save our nation from human and wealth exsanguinations.

Patrick Lang


Tactical air would not be necessary for such a campaign. Naval air and strategic assets would suffice. pl


So up in the hinterlands on the Af-Pak border the Taliban leaders must be crapping in their pants with laughter after hearing of Stanley's comments. The only Loya Jirga they will agree too is the one where the Taliban are ascended into the leadership of Afghanistan. This is a long war in their eyes and its only been a decade.


Slightly off topic, but important to note - please correct me if I am wrong - did you sit behind some Pentagon brass during the SOU speach? If it was you than you obviously have been judged important enough to be seated there. Which is a hopeful sign.

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