Posts Tagged ‘General Petraeus’

The author of this important report in Politics Daily (also attached below), Dave Wood, is a very experienced combat reporter and one of the very best US reporters covering Afghanistan. (Truth in advertising: I have known and admired Dave for 25 years.) Wood has produced an an excellent, if grim, Afghan SITREP that is well worth studying carefully, including its hotlinks.

I think it would be a mistake to conclude that the situation being in a kind a balance, because we are in a strategic stalemate, however. While it is probably true we are in a strategic stalemate in the strictest sense of term ‘strategic,’ every year the Taliban is able to maintain its menacing posture gives the insurgents additional leverage at the far more decisive grand-strategic level of conflict: To wit, ask yourself if any of the following five trends (which are inversions of the five criteria defining a successful grand strategy) is way out of line:

(1) Polls tell us that the political will at home to continue this war is slowing deteriorating;

(2) our allies are also going wobbly and some have already pulled the plug;

(3) uncommitted countries are not being attracted to our cause and our warlike activities are alienating many in the Muslim world;

(4) the insurgents’ will to resist shows no sign of weakening; and

(5) no one the US government has a clue how to end this conflict on favorable terms for the United States that do not sow the seeds of future conflict in the region, or with Islam.

The Afghan insurgents may not understand grand strategy in these terms, but they understand instinctively that they can outlast invaders, because they believe they have done it before to Alexander the Great, the British at the height of their imperial power, and the Soviets. Is there anyone who not think the the insurgents’ moral is being boosted by the prospect of outlasting the Americans?

A simple grand-strategic analysis reveals that time is clearly on the Taliban’s side and to assume that battle hardened leaders of the Taliban do not understand this is just a tad optimistic, to put it charitably. In fact, the breakdown of President Obama’s strategic review last December, which devolved into a dispute over when to leave, simply reinforced the obvious.

Chuck Spinney
The Blaster

The Afghanistan War: Tactical Victories, Strategic Stalemate?

David Wood, Politics Daily, 13 February 2011



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I have echoed these sentiments for years.  Of course, you are not heard when you say something that is negative, not in a think tank, etc…just keep fighting the good fight.


Chicago Tribune
August 23, 2010
Pg. 17

Petraeus’ Dubious Strategy In Afghanistan

By Christopher Layne

Gen. David Petraeus recently began a public relations blitz to convince American public opinion that the U.S. should stay the course in Afghanistan rather than holding to President Obama’s pledge to start withdrawing troops in July.

But most non-military observers understand that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won in any meaningful sense. They also understand a big reason for this is that success in Afghanistan requires a lot more than battlefield victory. To stabilize Afghanistan, the U.S. needs to establish good governance and foster economic development there. In a word, the U.S. must engage in nation-building. The U.S. has a long record of failure at that. Petraeus, however, would have Americans believe that the war can be turned around if we just give his strategy more time, troops and money. In making this case, Petraeus is banking on his prestige as the architect of the 2007 Iraq surge.

That credibility, however, rests on a dubious foundation. The media-savvy Petraeus created a myth — and that is what it is — that the Iraqi surge was successful. Studies of the Iraq war have shown, however, that the surge was incidental to dampening down the violence in Iraq. Most important, however, the surge failed to achieve its overriding objective, which was, as then-President George W. Bush declared, buying time for Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations to achieve political reconciliation. As the current political stalemate in Baghdad indicates, in this respect the surge failed, and Iraq faces a bleak political future.

The strategy Petraeus advocates for Afghanistan is a dubious one based on the counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine of which he is the primary author. Col. John Nagl, an influential COIN theorist who is president of the Center for a New American Security, has said it will take “at least a generation” for the U.S. to prevail in the fight against terrorism.

The new strategy assumes that the global counter-insurgency may last as long as the Cold War, and will require a greater mobilization of national resources than has occurred to date.

The problem with COIN is that in the real world none of the preconditions that military planners deem necessary for success can be fulfilled. Neither Congress nor the American public is willing to accept an open-ended military commitment to Afghanistan.

COIN misdiagnoses the root cause of America’s Middle Eastern difficulties. The U.S. is the target of Islamic terrorists because of its regional policies like support for corrupt regimes, its one-sided stance on the Israeli/Palestinian problem, its heavy politico-military presence, and the fact that the U.S. appears to many in the Middle East to be the imperial successor in the region to the French and British who once dominated it. As Andrew Mack, currently on the faculty of the School of International Studies at Simon Fraser University, pointed out in a classic article 35 years ago, there is a good reason that big states lose small wars: The forces of national and religious identity are stronger than the will of outside powers — powers that, inevitably one day will go home.

On its own terms, COIN is a problematic policy. Even more worryingly, it sets exactly the wrong grand strategic priorities for the United States. In an ironic coincidence, the same morning leading newspapers carried reports of Gen. Petraeus’ remarks, another headline announced that China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economic power and is on track to overtake the U.S. by 2030 (indeed perhaps as soon as 2020, according to many leading experts). In the early 21st century, East Asia is becoming the world’s geopolitical and economic fulcrum, and it is U.S. air and naval power that will be needed to meet the emerging challenge from China. That is where America’s long-term grand strategic interests lie — not in fighting futile Eurasian land wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Christopher Layne, the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, is writing a book on the collapse of the Pax Americana.

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Mr. Obama’s presidency is now being defined by four intractable problems:

(1) Persistent High Unemployment due to the intractable Great Recession

(2) a Financial Giveaway that protected rich Wall Street bankers at the expense of the masses who are suffering economically from the Great Recession the bankers triggered

(2) A BP Environmental Disaster that reveals the feckless incompetence of the Federal Gov’t — i.e., Obama’s Katrina Moment

(4) His enthusiastic embrace and expansion of the Afghan War into the AFPAK Quagmire.

Ahmed Rashid, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the AFPAK scene (and, ironically, a proponent of the AFPAK intervention) paints a thoroughly depressing picture the nature of the AFPAK quagmire in the attached blog carried by the New York Review of Books.

Petraeus’s Baby Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books (Blogs), July 14, 2010 11:15 a.m.


The surprising and speedy crash of General Stanley McCrystal has been seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the wider region as just one more sign of the mess that the US and its NATO allies face in what is looking increasingly like an unwinnable conflict.


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