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With its 180 million people, several dozen nuclear warheads and havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pakistan is one wild card in McChrystal's campaign.


WELCOME!

What does the military think of Stan McChrystal as a leader and his plan for Afghanistan?

Update June 25/10: U.S. President Obama appoints Desert Storm Gen. David Petraeus after firing McChrystal for comments made to Rolling Stone in the story, The Runaway General Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House, by Michael Hastings, June 22/10. Here's an excerpt:

... Rather than one big battle, like Fallujah or Ramadi, U.S. troops will implement what McChrystal calls a "rising tide of security." The Afghan police and army will enter Kandahar to attempt to seize control of neighborhoods, while the U.S. pours $90 million of aid into the city to win over the civilian population.

Even proponents of counterinsurgency are hard-pressed to explain the new plan. "This isn't a classic operation," says a U.S. military official. "It's not going to be Black Hawk Down. There aren't going to be doors kicked in." Other U.S. officials insist that doors are going to be kicked in, but that it's going to be a kinder, gentler offensive than the disaster in Marja. "The Taliban have a jackboot on the city," says a military official. "We have to remove them, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't alienate the population." When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. "This looks like CT-plus!" he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting.

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over the Afghan people - do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" - a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.

Listen to the Danger Zone interview July 4/10 with Capt. Benjamin Tupper, author of Greetings from Afghanistan: Pass the Ammo, on the challenge to turn Afghan soldiers into team players and U.S. soldiers into teachers and social workers.

More on Financial Assistance for Caregivers of U.S. Vets.

View the growing list of Canada's fallen in Afghanistan.

Donate to the Canadian Hero Fund.

More on VA home mortgage loans for U.S. vets.

How confident are you it will work? Reasons why or why not?
TinyTeaman
Biblitz receives a reply:

Leo -

You've posed an important question - really 2 - that deserves a better answer than the ones I see here (and, unfortunately, a better answer than I can probably give).

General McChrystal has risen through the officer ranks and done well for himself up until now. In Afghanistan, he's found himself in a far different situation than he imagined. Afghanistan is not Iraq, and the full appreciation of what that means is only dawning on him slowly. Like General Dan McNeill a couple of years ago, McChrystal came in like a bull in a china shop and alienated many of the people he would need to work with. In particular, he has poorly managed his relationship with Ambassador Eikenberry -- to McChrystal's detriment. McChrystal s job here and the challenges he faces are only partly military in nature, and, in many ways, his experiences to date have not prepared him well for the non-military bits. For example, he has over-reached his authority as both a U.S. and a NATO commander in some of his public comments. "What does the military think of Stan McChrystal as a leader...?" Depends on who you are speaking with in the military. As a senior officer who recognizes the situational nature of leadership, I'd suggest that McChrystal's leadership in AFG will be challenged. He will likely leave us far more tarnished than he was when he arrived.

The "Plan"?

The full document, unclassified, is available. Unfortunately, the short answer is that it will not work. It is too ambitious and requires more commitment in terms of both time and money than is likely to materialize. Objectives need to be matched with resources and that is not the case here. There are hardworking and dedicated men and women -- military and civilian, U.S. and international -- applying themselves to the AFG problem, but it is nearly impossible to reach consensus amongst the various stakeholders and get everyone on the same page. Contrary to popular belief, the Talibani and foreign fighters (al Qaeda, Iranians and others) are not the biggest challenge. Stan McChrystal is only belated coming to that realization and it is not fully reflected in his Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan.

Thanks for the question//Naval Aviator

The Afghanistan war story in January, 2008:

Vanity Fair

Into the Valley of Death

A strategic passage wanted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Afghanistan's Korengal Valley is among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces. One platoon is considered the tip of the American spear. Its men spend their days in a surreal combination of backbreaking labor - building outposts on rocky ridges - and deadly firefights, while they try to avoid the mistakes the Russians made. Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington join the platoon's painfully slow advance, as its soldiers laugh, swear, and run for cover, never knowing which of them won't make it home.

January, 2008

... "Prison labor is basically what I call it," says a man I know only as Dave. Dave is a counter-insurgency specialist who spends his time at remote outposts, advising and trying to learn. He wears his hair longer than most soldiers, a blond tangle that after two weeks at Restrepo seems impressively styled with dirt. I ask him why the Korengal is so important.

"It's important because of accessibility to Pakistan," he says. "Ultimately, everything is going to Kabul. The Korengal is keeping the Pech River Valley safe, the Pech is keeping Kunar Province stable, and hence what we are hoping is all that takes the pressure off Kabul."

While we are talking, some rounds come in, snapping over our heads and continuing on up the valley. They were aimed at a soldier who had exposed himself above a HESCO. He drops back down, but otherwise, the men hardly seem to notice.

"The enemy doesn't have to be good," Dave adds. "They just have to be lucky from time to time."

The Korengal is so desperately fought over because it is the first leg of a former mujahideen smuggling route that was used to bring in men and weapons from Pakistan during the 1980s. From the Korengal, the mujahideen were able to push west along the high ridges of the Hindu Kush to attack Soviet positions as far away as Kabul. It was called the Nuristan-Kunar corridor, and American military planners fear that al-Qaeda is trying to revive it. If the Americans simply seal off the valley and go around, Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters currently hiding near the Pakistani towns of Dir and Chitral could use the Korengal as a base of operations to strike deep into eastern Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is rumored to be in the Chitral area, as are his second in command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and a clutch of other foreign fighters. While thousands of poorly trained Taliban recruits martyr themselves in southerrn Afghanistan, bin Laden's most highly trained fighters ready themselves for the next war, which will happen in the East.

In addition to strategic value, the Korengal also has the perfect population in which to root an insurgency. The Korengalis are clannish and violent and have successfully fought off every outside attempt to control them - including the Taliban's in the 1990s. They practice the extremist Wahhabi version of Islam and speak a language that even people in the next valley over cannot understand. That makes it extremely difficult for the American forces to find reliable translators. The Korengalis have terraced the steep slopes of their valley into fertile wheat fields and built stone houses that can withstand earthquakes (and, as it turns out, air strikes), and have set about cutting down the enormous cedar trees that cover the upper elevations of the Abas Ghar. Without access to heavy machinery, they simply grease the mountainsides with cooking oil and let the trees rocket several thousand feet to the valley below.

The timber industry has given the Korengalis a measure of wealth that has made them more or less autonomous in the country. Hamid Karzai's government tried to force them into the fold regulating the export of timber, but the Taliban quickly offered to help them smuggle it out to Pakistan in return for assistance fighting the Americans. The timber is moved past corrupt border guards or along a maze of mountain tracks and donkey trails that cross the border into Pakistan. The locals call these trails buzrao; some American soldiers refer to them as "rat lines." The routes are almost impossible to monitor because they cross steep, forested mountainsides that provide cover from aircraft. After firefights, the Americans can listen in on Taliban radio communications calling for more ammunition to be brought by donkey along these lines. (-- pgs. 91-92)

But the military has made some headway, right?

Wrong!

By many measures, Afghanistan is falling apart. The Afghan opium crop has flourished in the past two years and now represents 93 percent of the world's supply, with an estimated street value of $38 billion in 2006. That money helps bankroll an insurgency that is now operating virtually within sight of the capital, Kabul. Suicide bombings have risen eightfold in the past two years, including several devastating attacks in Kabul, and as of October, coalition casualties had surpassed those of any previous year. The situation has gotten so bad, in fact, that ethnic and political factions in the northern part of the country have started stockpiling arms in preparation for when the international community decides to pull out. Afghans - who have seen two foreign powers on their soil in 20 years - are well aware that everything has an end point, and that in their country end points are bloodier than most.

The Korengal is widely considered to be the most dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan, and Second Platoon is considered the tip of the spear for the American forces there. Nearly one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in this valley, and nearly three-quarters of all the bombs dropped by NATO forces in Afghanistan are dropped in the surrounding area. The fighting is on foot and it is deadly, and the zone of American control moves hilltop by hilltop, ridge by ridge, a hundred yards at a time. There is literally no safe place in the Korengal Valley. Men have been shot while asleep in their barracks tents. (-- p. 86)

war

Rupert Garcia

Prints and Posters Grabados y Afiches 1967-1990

Paperback

... Lithography offers mopre textural and painterly surfaces than silkscreen, evident in the 1987 Goliath over David or the U.S. Invasion of Grenada (footnote omitted) in which onrushing GIs and backup helicopter are placed against triangular spears of yellow, blue, and red, overlaid with urgent daubs of color.(-- p. 37)

The New York Times Magazine

His Long War

Is it just too late - politically and militarily - for Gen. Stanley McChrystal to win in Afghanistan?

By Dexter Filkins

Oct. 18/09

Listen to the Danger Zone interview March 27/10 with Pete Singer, author of Wired for War, on high tech, no- or low-personnel warfare currently in use in a third American war in the Middle East, the one raging in Pakistan.

The strategy that McChrystal, Flynn and the other senior commanders want to employ in Afghanistan has two main prongs: one hard, one soft.

In the military arena, McChrystal wants to put as many of his men as close to the Afghan people as he can. That means closing some of the smaller bases in remote valleys and opening them in densely populated areas like the Helmand River valley. Here, at least, military force will play a central role, at least in the early phase of his strategy, as the Americans fight their way into areas they have not been in before.

"The insurgency has to have access to the people," McChrystal told me. "So we literally want to go in there and squat among the people. We want to make the insurgents come to us. Make them be the aggressors. What I want to do is get on the inside, looking out instead of being on the outside looking in."

"There will be a lot of fighting," McChrystal added. "If we do this right, the insurgents will have to fight us. They will have no choice."

And that's the rub: the population-focused strategy requires more troops - as many as 40,000 more. This is the decision that confronts President Obama and his advisers now.

The other part of the military option is one with which McChrystal is familiar but does not completely control. It's his old portfolio - killing and capturing insurgents and terrorists. Much of that is being carried out in Pakistan, where Al Qaeda's leadership has gathered in havens just across the border from Afghanistan. Both bin Laden and Zawahiri are believed to be hiding there.

In Pakistan, a C.I.A.-led program using Predator drones to hunt down and kill leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban has proved remarkably successful, even if controversial inside Pakistan itself. To date, American officials say, they have killed 11 of the top 20 Al Qaeda leaders, without having to launch large-scale military operations across the border.

With its 180 million people, several dozen nuclear warheads and havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pakistan is one wild card in McChrystal s campaign. "If we are good here, it will have a good effect on Pakistan," he told me. "But if we fail here, Pakistan will not be able to solve their problems - it would be like burning leaves on a windy day next door. And if Pakistan implodes, it will be very hard for us to succeed."

The softer side of McChrystal's strategy has two main thrusts: training Afghan soldiers and police and persuading insurgents to change sides. It is here where the best chances of long-term success in Afghanistan may lie.

The first of these is a vast, expensive and painstaking project. In the ninth year of the war, Afghan forces are neither large nor able enough to take over for NATO. The Afghan Army has about 85,000 soldiers, and the police force has about 80,000 men. McChrystal wants to boost the size of the army to about 240,000 and the police to 160,000. "I think we can do it," he told me.

But experience suggests that it won't be easy. In Iraq, the building of the security forces was fraught with disaster: in 2004 and 2005, Iraqi soldiers and the police disintegrated whenever they came under attack. In later years, Iraqi forces became more sectarian, with some Shiite-dominated units carrying out massacres of Sunni civilians. It was only much later - by early 2008 - that the Iraqi Army and the police began to show promise.



And Iraq was an urban and literate society. Afghanistan is neither. The Afghan police are widely seen as corrupt and complicit in the opium trade - the world s largest. And while many Afghan soldiers have shown themselves willing to fight, it usually falls to the Americans and their NATO allies to pay them, feed them and support them in the field.

Earlier this year, Maj. Gen. Richard Formica, who oversees the training of the Afghan security forces, spoke to me about the difficulties of creating an army in a country where only one in four adults is literate. "What percentage of police recruits can read?" Formica asked when we met at his headquarters in Kabul. "When I was down in Helmand, where the Brits were training police officers, they said not only could none of them read but they didn't understand what a classroom was. How can you train officers if they can't write arrest reports?"

The real hurdle in Afghanistan:

The New York Times Magazine

Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of Our Time

In many parts of the world, women are routinely beaten, raped or sold into prostitution. They are denied access to medical care, education and economic and political power. Changing that could change everything.

By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Aug. 23/09

More on Wafa Sultan, author of A God Who Hates, on the devastating effects of Islam especially on women.

Policy makers have gotten the message as well. President Obama has appointed a new White House Council on Women and Girls. Perhaps he was indoctrinated by his mother, who was one of the early adopters of microloans to women when she worked to fight poverty in Indonesia. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is a member of the White House Council, and she has also selected a talented activist, Melanne Verveer, to direct a new State Department Office of Global Women's Issues. On Capitol Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has put Senator Barbara Boxer in charge of a new subcommittee that deals with women's issues.

Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country's population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren't fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys' locker room. That's in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls' education in countries like Afghanistan and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls' schools in his best seller, Three Cups of Tea. Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.