With Petraeus Pick, Obama Clarifies His Afghanistan Strategy

By
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm

President Obama announces his selection of Gen. David Petraeus to lead the Afghanistan war on Wednesday. (epa/ZUMApress.com)

“This is a change in personnel,” President Obama said, announcing Gen. David Petraeus’ takeover of the Afghanistan war, “but not a change in policy.” Yes and no.

As I wrote earlier, Petraeus’ return to theater command indicates that an ambiguity in that policy has been clarified. It’s never been clear what exactly the pace and scope of troop withdrawals will be after Obama’s July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan soldiers and police taking the lead in securing the country. Obama said in his West Point speech announcing the date that “we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” But what does that really mean? It appeared like a straddle, a line that allowed Vice President Biden to say that troop withdrawals after 2011 would be substantial and also allowed the military not to face a hard and fast deadline. In Kabul and Islamabad, that didn’t work so well, as senior officials in the Afghan and Pakistani governments reportedly disbelieved that the U.S. really did seek a long-term relationship, as Obama repeatedly said.

Today Obama clarified what July 2011 means — somewhat. It means what Gen. Petraeus, his new commander, told the Senate he supports: not a “race for the exits,” but a “conditions-based,” open-ended transition. If that still sounds unclear, it’s because the policy itself is unclear. But by placing Petraeus at the helm, it means that 2012 will probably look more like right now, in terms of troop levels and U.S. troops fighting, than anything Biden prefers. That is, unless Petraeus and Obama come to a consensus that conditions on the ground necessitate more rapid withdrawals. Think of the deadline as getting deliberately blurrier. Tom Ricks called his last book about Petraeus “The Gamble.” It’s sequel time.

The strategy is supposed to undergo a review in December. Don’t expect that review to be so substantial. Petraeus will only be in theater for a few months. While he may not want to launch his own strategy review, he’ll surely want to keep his options open, and will be able to argue that the extraordinary conditions that put him back in charge of a war will necessitate that delay. Make no mistake: This is Obama intensifying his strategy. That’s the major change that has emerged after Gen. McChrystal’s unexpected self-immolation.

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64 Comments

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Hawaiianstyle
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

Those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Afghanistan is the grave yard of nations, generals and in the future, Presidents.

AUWE America the land of the free and the home of the brave.


MYMY
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

I suspect Petraeus' appointment means we MIGHT be exiting in 2011, heads held high.

The administration may be able to begin to talk about what they're doing there without a snake in the grass (you-know-who) shadowing every pronouncement & every policy decision and implying or saying outright it won't work.

McChrystal was a one-man Senate GOP.


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mcgeorgebundy
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

If Petraeus succeeds in Afghanistan, however unlikely that is, he'll be elected president at some point. There's no way he won't run, no matter what he says to the press.


ayn't no thing
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

VietNam II, anyone?


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Da47ve
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

“McChrystal's self immolation”? Bite me liberal…. his self elevation…look out liberals…


Buzzymuzzwelle
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

Simply The Lad from Kenya's Guy, McChrystal was not up to the job.
Enter Bush's mate. The one Liberals despise to save the day. If my
daughter and thousand of our nation's best's lives not to mention the
safety of our nation it's self were not the line I would laugh my head off.
The Lad has picked Petraeus now, probably under pressure from our
NATO allies. This is no longer Bush's fault. This failure is pure Obama.


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YoshiNakamura
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.”
——————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————–

This one of the rare examples of sense in the discussion of our war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Colonel MacGregor is retired and has no influence on policy.

Our war in Afghanistan is already the longest war in American history! After deposing the Taliban in quick order after we invaded, we have made no progress in remaking Afghan society along secular democratic lines — despite the loss of over a thousand American lives and the expenditures of vast sums of our wealth. We have made no progress in defeating the Taliban as the most potent political force in Afghanistan. Why not?

The answer lies in the fact that Afghanistan is a very religious Moslem country. The population is imbued with the doctrines of Islam. Their loyalty is to Islam. Their hearts and minds are devoted to Islam. And, yet, none of our political leaders, none of our military leaders and none of our learned journalists ever mention Islam. Doesn't Islam make a difference? Don't the doctrines of Islam play a role?

Apparently, they do, indeed, play a role. The official name of “our” Afghanistan is “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”. The constitution of “our” Afghanistan says specifically that no law may be passed which contradicts the doctrines of Islam. In “our” Afghanistan, apostasy and blasphemy require the death penalty — in accordance with Sharia law. Therefore, “our” Afghan government is dedicated, must be dedicated, to promoting the doctrines of Islam.

Well, the Taliban is dedicated to that same goal! The only difference between the Taliban and the rest of the Afghan population is that the Taliban wants a stricter implementation of Shariah law. But, all of them want Sharia law to be the basis of state law.

With the Koran, the sayings of Muhammad and sharia law on their minds, the Afghan population views us, non-Moslems, as enemies — no matter how kind and generous we are to them, no matter how many schools, canals, roads, government buildings and, yes, mosques, we build for them. None of that counts in winning their hearts and minds because their hearts and minds are shaped by and devoted to Islam. Any policy based on our winning their hearts and minds is doomed to failure. Therefore, it does not make any difference whether McChrystal or Petraeus commands our forces there.

Our only interest in Afghanistan is to prevent that territory from becoming a staging ground for international Islamic terrorism like it was before we overthrew the Taliban government. If necessary, we can always go back in again. We should not be expending any more of our lives and wealth in trying to remake Afghan Moslem society. It cannot be done. And, we certainly have no business propping up another Islamic regime.


FredFnord
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

But by placing Petraeus at the helm, it means that 2012 will probably look more like right now, in terms of troop levels and U.S. troops fighting, than anything Biden prefers. That is, unless Petraeus and Obama come to a consensus that conditions on the ground necessitate more rapid withdrawals.

Or, as is more likely, they come to a consensus that even more troops are needed.

-fred


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Fred Fnord
Comment posted June 23, 2010 @ 11:49 pm

If he fails, he will try to pin the failure on Obama and the Democrats. Most likely he won't run until 2016, which will give him more time to do that. And he will still be elected.

We reward failure more enthusiastically than success, if you are good at playing 'the blame game'. It's unfortunate that Democrats never are.

-fred


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Yeggo
Comment posted June 24, 2010 @ 1:36 am

“David Petraeus is now in charge of the country's longest war, and I wonder if he'll work to guide the war toward some sort of resolution. A victory, as the RS article rightly notes, doesn't seem likely. I also wonder if the president will take this change in military leadership as a chance to save American lives and reverse the surge. A good president accepts reality; a great president responds to it. A change in course in Afghanistan would signal an embrace of reality, but I have my doubts as to whether Obama can (or will) make a change without major pushback from military brass.”

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Hanalei169
Comment posted June 24, 2010 @ 6:39 am

With what little I know on this topic, I do agree with you, one of my problems with an out right withdrawl is the the U.S. made promises to many people/tribes that may be killed after the U.S. leaves.


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Cugel
Comment posted June 24, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

What chance is there that he's going to succeed? Basically none.

What chance is there that he'll be vetted for the Republican party nomination in 2016? Good.

But people assuming that his candidacy is a sure thing forget that the Republican party is no longer safely in the control of the money managers who selected Bush. The Tea-baggers will have their say. Where does Petraeus stand on the issue of endless tax cuts for the rich?

Can he convince the slavering hordes wearing funny hats that he's one of them? This is becoming Rand Paul's party and it's not at all clear that Petraeus is their man. Even if he can, what happens if the economy is still in the tank and the “jobless recovery” is in it's 8th year? Will Randian-economics of “small government” still appeal at that point?

Worse, the war is going to be a LOT more unpopular in 2016 than it is now — assuming it's still going. And he's not going to be able to evade all responsibility for failure if it's not — if he was in charge of that failure. (Remember John McCain didn't do all that well as the candidate of the “surge!”).

In fact it took Sarah Palin the Tea-bagger prototype to excite their idiot base. Probably the same thing here. He certainly won't be the first choice of the Tea-bag crowd.


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Comment posted June 26, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

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Comment posted June 26, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

I stopped reading your comment after the statement “Our war in Afghanistan is already the longest war in American History”. What about the Viet Nam War? Where do you get your history?


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Spencer you cheap whore…


Test
Comment posted July 20, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

You're f'd.

LOL

Bias.

http://dailycaller.com/2010/07/20/documents-sho…


Dan Freeman
Comment posted July 20, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

“Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.” — Spencer Ackerman
I think we know where Ackerman is coming from. What a poor excuse for a man. Disgusting, pathetic…yet the state of “journalism” today among MSM.


Bane
Comment posted July 20, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

Ackerman=Another radical left wing hate-monger masquerading as a “journalist.” Too bad you're stuck writing for this shitty site no one reads (until they read about your bias elsewhere)….guess you couldn't get on in the White House propaganda office.


D1stewart
Comment posted July 20, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

Look, Ackerman's a racist. That's his shtick. He hates whites. Enough said.


FYI
Comment posted July 20, 2010 @ 11:55 pm

Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright
http://dailycaller.com/2010/07/20/documents-sho…

“In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

This activist rag is a joke.


KingShamus
Comment posted July 21, 2010 @ 10:59 am

Wow, this is a great piece. I'm gonna link to it!

Oh wait-no I'm not. Why? Because Spencer Ackerman is a proven liar who is only too happy to cast lies at random targets to advance an ideological agenda.

Spencer, you suck dude. Time to find a new line of work. Something that doesn't involve writing.


Disgusted with Ackerman
Comment posted July 22, 2010 @ 1:52 am

“Pick one of Obama's conservative critics, Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares –
and call them racists…” –Spencer Ackerman

Then there's Ackerman's JournoList comment reported on Daily Caller suggesting a man (Michael Ledeen) be pushed through a plate glass window.

It's hard to imagine how any journalism enterprise would employ Ackerman whose own words show him to be a violence prone liar. The fact that Ackerman is not a pariah in journalism shows how corrupt and worthless the journalism industry is today.


Hunnygun
Comment posted July 22, 2010 @ 6:32 am

Is Ackerman a reporter? or a “reporter”?


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tinkerthinker
Comment posted July 23, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

Maybe you and your freind should hire out to the mob instead of writing, it would suit you better.

Spencer Ackerman even issued a threat:

Lenny Ben-David, you and I will meet someday, face to face. I hope it comes very soon. I promise you it will be an unforgettable experience.

MJ Rosenberg endorsed the threat, saying:

If there’s anything left of him.

On second thought, I guess you already did.


Cynccook
Comment posted July 23, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

Wow. Spencer Ackerman, you are a total d*uche bag. I've read lots of your Journolist comments by now and one thing is certainly clear: you are a violent, bully boy who likes to make lots of threats behind peoples' backs. I certainly hope you are saving money, because a little niggling voice is telling me that you are fast making yourself un-employable by any mainstream organization. Oh well, you can still probably find a job writing violent porno scripts or something of that ilk. Go to H*ll, you jerk.


Nother
Comment posted July 23, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

Oh, Specie…SPENCIE!! Where did you go? Posting multiple articles per day up until this one. Where, oh where might a coward like you have run off to? I hope your meeting with a plate glass window is memorable indeed.


Adtlink
Comment posted July 23, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

How can we take anything you write seriously now?

It is laughable that you are hired here to write about serious issues that affect people and their very lives!

You are this “washington independent” are pathetic.


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leadership as a chance to save American lives and reverse the surge. A good president accepts reality; a great president responds to it. A change in course in Afghanistan would signal an embrace of reality, but I have my doubts as to whether Obama can (or will) make a change without major pushback from military brass.”


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