I promise more variety and cheerfulness in the near future, but I need to get one more Afghanistan post out before the escalation decision is made.

Eff'dghanistanJon Stewart continues to get more truth out through his graphics than "real" news shows do in their entire programs. Eff'dghanistan is the latest contribution.

The best article by far I have seen is "The decision" by Spencer Ackerman in The National, an United Arab Emirates paper. (h/t Tom Ricks)

President Obama has succeed in getting the "Goldilocks" option to be reduced to sending 34,000 additional soldiers and marines to Afghanistan. Not bad. Not good, either, but considering the hand he was dealt by the neo-con McChrystal report, not bad.

UPDATES: Wow! Ambassador Karl Eikenberry just dropped a bomb on the escalation There is hope! I sense the narrative is switching - but my fingers are still crossed. Colin Powell tells Obama to take his time. Debate Shifts to Afghan Exit Plan. Whoo hoo!

Tom Ricks has a reading list for Afghanistan. One PhD student, Christopher Bleuer, is highlighted twice. A blog, Ghosts of Alexander, and a huge resource site, The Afghanistan Analyst.


Stacy said...

Secretary Gates is sort of threatening to fire anyone caught leaking to bloggers/writers like the ever-on-top-of-things Spencer Ackerman. Methinks things are getting ugly in the Situation Room.

Question- after his illegal cover-up of the Tillman controversy, why the hell is McCrystal even in charge over in Afghanistan? I don't give a damn how few meals he eats a day or that walked 20 miles to the neocon shop when he was a Fellow at CFR. A POTUS who gets elected in hopes he'll scale things down (not up) would have done better to select someone less notorious for his neocon leanings.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Well, he has to find them first. It's mostly bluster, Gates has to say it's bad, bad, bad. On McChrystal, what I read is that he made a mistake, but tried to do the right thing afterward. I'm not a fan, mainly from the Afghan decision leak, but illegal is going pretty far. What's the evidence?

Our POTUS campaigned on escalating in Afghanistan, so whoever hoped he would scale down was mistaken. However, he seems to have turned the corner on something. Given the position he's in, (some of his own making of course) I'd accept 15,000 soldiers, 15,000 trainers, and a threat to Karzai to straighten up or else we're gone. I'd like to see both Abdullah and Ghani given ministries again and elections for governors. But that's awful hopeful.

One thing I've tried to find info on is this idea that Obama handpicked McChrystal. I would guess he rubberstamped Petraeus/Gates' pick. Any info on that?

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the Ackerman article. He's summed up the situation quite nicely. There are no good answers. Do we want to be poked in the eye with a sharp stick or beaten over the head with it?

Complete pullout gives the Taliban and AQ a victory while making us look weak and pulling the rug out from under reformers in the Middle East and South Asia.

But the other side of the coin must be addressed as well: What will 40k more troops accomplish? How soon?

Ackerman gets to the heart of it: Strategic drift. And it started with Bush. We went in to get the bad guys. Now what?

My only nit with your position is that all military strategies are not scalable. A troop reduction may mean that the McChrystal strategy in not doable.

Ackerman is also correct that Iraq lessons can be applied on the tactical level in Afghanistan but not the stragegic-politico level.

There are no easy answers, but I repeat myself...

Norwegian Shooter said...

I think we look weak already. Who are the reformers? I'm fine with the McChrystal strategy not being doable. I think we should set the level of troops that we can sustain for at least 10 years (I'm thinking 20k to 30k) and have the military come up with the best plan with those resources. See Rory Stewart's arguments linked in previous Afghan posts.

Anonymous said...

I would rather we leave than just muddle along with no strategic focus.

You need to post more often!

Norwegian Shooter said...

Agreed, but I don't see that happening. I'm in a rut right now. Taking time tomorrow to break out. Thanks.

Ryan said...

I read with interest fotusc's comment that "complete pullout give the Taliban and Al Qaeda a victory." Why? Because Fox "News" says so? It dosn't make us "look weak" to the rest of the world, either. We have warped perceptions here. What makes America "look weak" in both the Muslim world and, frankly ,elsewhere, is landing down on small, largely defenseless countries with all our military might in the first place. We look weak by picking on countries like Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Grenada, etc. to begin with. Even if we could leave with something that could be spun as a "victory," whatever that would ential, the whole idea of "damage control" is only for domestic purposes at this point. In terms of internatioanl opinion, we lose these "conflicts" the minute we engage in them, that's just plain how it is.
As for the idea of "strategic focus," what particualr "strategic focus" is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands more lives? Plenty of experts on the ground at this point are saying that our biggest obstacle to achieveing anything there is our very presence in the area, in other words, not only can we "not win" at this point, but we never could, and our continued presence is only making things worse by the day. We are the Taliban and Al Qaeda's best recruiting tool, these "reformers" in the area you speak of won't have the "rug pulled out from under them" if we leave, in fact the reverse --- they have no chance at succecss until we leave and they can put some distance bbetween themselves and us and consequently not look like US pawns.
I think Ackerman makes some interesting points, in general, but "strategic drift" is not hte problem here, the problem is getting involved in the first place, and having an inherently militaristic and interventionist foreign policy. The taliban only rose to power in the first place when we armed and funded the elements who became the Taliban during the Soviet occupation (contrary to popular belief they never actually "invaded" Afghanistan), and the Soviets came in to help prop up a purportedly "socialist" governmet there that we opposed and were determined to sink.
So, our meddling in the area has been a primary cause of the porblems there for decades now, not some recent bout of "strategic drift." The neoliberal and neoconservative approaches have failed in Afghanistan, particularly the neoconsertavie one, but there's plenty of blame to be shared. Getting out is probably the only way forward at this point.