December 1st of last year, President Obama gave a speech at West Point announcing his plan to surge in 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to hopefully turn things around. According to Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” which I am still finishing up, the number of 30,000 came after weeks of discussions, arguments, political discussions, etc. between the uniformed leaders of the military and the Obama administration. According to the book, GEN McChrystal really wanted 80,000 additional troops as the ultimate number but knew he would not get that so he also offered two other numbers in his options. 10,000 of nothing but trainers for the Afghan National Army and Police or 40,000 which was a bare minimum to try and train the local forces and provide the necessary security to the countryside and turn the war around.
After all those weeks of discussions the number settled on 30,000 and almost up to the point of the speech at West Point it was still bring decided and confirmed. A lot of people gave the Administration criticism for taking so long to come to that decision, to include yours truly on this blog. After reading the book by Woodward my fears were realized as to why it took so long. The President just did not have the experience or the trusted people around him with the experience to make the decision when it needed to be made. He was getting a lot of varying advice and as I read it, just did not know who to trust.
As part of that deal was the caveat to produce an assessment of the surge in December 2010. Some argued that was way too soon after the surge finally got into theater (which was around the Aug timeframe). Personally I think it is way too early to do this assessment. Of course it was decided to do it in December of this year because the President had stated that a withdrawal of troops would start in June of 2011 (according to Woodward’s book that was originally SecDef Gates’s idea). Since the mid-term elections have ended the date for possible drawdown in Afghanistan has been pushed to 2014. I think that is quite coincidental that the 2014 date was announced after the elections,,,,NOT!
Anyway, back to the point of this post is that this week Afghanistan is about to become the front page news all over again as the assessment is scheduled to be released on Thursday. I think I have a good idea of what will be coming out in it. Based on the comments and interviews over the past week by GEN Petreaus, ADM Mullen and the SecDef it will be a marginally optimistic report that will say something close to the following:
- The surge has stopped or started to turn back the progress of the Taliban in the fight against the Coalition
- Villages and districts that were once taliban controlled or at least un-friendly to coalition forces are now on our side and defending themselves. (The village of Marjah may be highlighted as an example)
- The training of national security forces is progressing, but slower than what would be preferred.
- AWOL among security forces is still a major issue
- Corruption is the longest pole in the tent and possibly the largest Afghanistan inhibitor to progress
- Pakistan has to step up and help us control the borders and police up their own country if our mission in Afghanistan is going to be successful
I am sure there will be much more content in the report but I am predicting based on what I have heard the military leadership say that the meat of the assessment will be close to the above bullet-points. What it probably won’t say is it won’t place any blame on the switchover of command from McChrystal to Petreaus (even though that did have a temporary impact). It will also probably not say anything negative about Karzai as the Wikileaks state department leaks have done more than enough damage already. Lastly it won’t say what really needs to be said and that is that we must have the authority to put ground forces into parts of Pakistan in order to take out the leadership of the anti-coalition forces and to put a stop to many of our threats in country. Pakistan is the key to our success and until they take a strong stance or turn a blind eye to our movement into their country then the supply of people willing to fight our forces will never end.
I have had many people ask me why we don’t just invade Pakistan and take them out? Why do we continue to give them billions in aid and toy around with them when we know they are the root of the problems. The answer is simple, NUCLEAR. They have the nuclear card and as long as they do we can’t risk it. I am convinced that had they not had nuclear weapons we would have had large-scale ground forces in there years ago. However that country is like an unstable powderkeg, except that there isn’t blackpowder in the keg, it is nuclear warheads.