Gen. McChrystal’s Freaked-Out Advisers

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 9:23 am

A pattern is developing with respect to the Afghanistan war. No one who advises Gen. Stanley McChrystal on his 60-day strategy review — results coming soon! — thinks the war effort is adequately resourced. First Andrew “Abu Muqawama” Exum of the Center for a New American Security came back from Afghanistan and appeared freaked out, writing that while it wasn’t hopeless, “to say we are facing an uphill struggle in Afghanistan is an understatement.” He then questioned U.S. ability to influence the Afghanistan government’s corruption and lack of capacity to govern.

Now Anthony Cordesman, an eminence grise of Washington defense analysts, came back from advising McChrystal and said that McChrystal badly needs more troops, according to the Voice of America:

“If you don’t provide those resources and additional brigade combat teams, if you do not, I think, effectively move the Afghan security forces toward doubling them. I think unless we’re prepared to commit those resources. If we somehow believe that a civilian surge of 700 people and tailoring our force posture to the views of a completely different set of strategic priorities, this is going to win, the answer is no, it’s going to lose,” he said.

I don’t really know what he means by a “completely different set of strategic priorities,” but I presume Cordesman is pushing back against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser Jim Jones, both of whom have expressed skepticism about adding more troops than the 17000 President Obama ordered to Afghanistan this spring. Cordesman cautioned that there “isn’t some historical ratio” about how many troops are needed in Afghanistan, which also seems like a jab at the rules of thumb for troops-to-population ratio offered in the Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (20 to 25 troops per 1000 residents).

An early dissenter is Joshua Foust, who isn’t part of the review. A military consultant with extensive and recent experience in Afghanistan who also believes the war is winnable, has been blogging that from what he’s seen so far, the review is hidebound, disconnected from reality, and ignorant of the history of even the American experiences in Afghanistan. Yesterday he laced into Exum:

[T]he biggest problem in all this talk of strategy, and the heart of why I was so deeply skeptical of even the current review [is] no one talks to each other, and no one does their homework (and by that I mean “no one in charge”). According to Exum’s new model for how to use U.S. forces, they should be limited to air-assault type missions, except we need more of them, because the problem is the Taliban’s campaign of silent intimidation. No offense, Ex, but does that make even a jot of sense?

Later today, another adviser to McChrystal’s review, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, is going to hold a conference call to discuss what he took away from the project. We’ll see if he fits the pattern.

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Comment posted July 30, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

Obama's escalation in Afghanistan must be viewed as a political, not a strategic military action. The number of the troop increase selected was not in any way based upon military requirements, but rather it was chosen to appear to support a firm long-term commitment while at the same time having the lightest impact of American force readiness. It has become clear that nothing of any scale will be accomplished in Afghanistan over Obama's term(s) as President, other than a bloody bit of political theater that protects Obama's right flank from accusations he's not willing to “fight terrorism”. It's a tragic, bloody waste of lives and money, nothing more…

The beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan « Fabius Maximus
Pingback posted August 18, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

[...] Foreign Policy of the myriad ways in which the war effort is in deep trouble. Indeed, pretty much every public statement from every adviser to McChrystal’s review has conveyed the same sentiment. Recognition that the Taliban is winning isn’t the same thing as [...]

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