So Who Were the Advisers for McChrystal’s 60-Day Afghanistan Review?

Created: July 30, 2009 17:31 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

So we know about Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations. But who else advised Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day Afghanistan review strategy?

Biddle, who held a conference call this afternoon to discuss his views now that he’s back from the review — more on that in the next post — clarifies that it wasn’t so much that they advised the review. A group of about a dozen civilian experts, mostly from Washington think tanks, were the review. When Defense Secretary Bob Gates asked McChrystal to send him an assessment of the war’s fortunes and the resources necessary to turn it around, the civilian experts were flown to Baghdad to conduct the “overall assessment,” Biddle said. Officers from the USFOR-A headed “subtopic” groups of “particular interest to Gen. McChrystal like civilian-casualty minimization, strategic communication and so forth.” But the band of (mostly) Beltway think-tankers were the review.

So here’s the list of attendees:

Exum

Biddle

Cordesman

Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute

Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War

Jeremy Shapiro of Brookings

Terry Kelly of the Rand Corporation

Catherine Dale of the Congressional Research Service

Etienne de Durand of Paris’ Institut Francais des Relations Internationales [Update: My sincerest apologies to Mr. Durand, who is not a Parisian church. Thanks to Josh Foust for catching my error.]

Whitney Kassel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Luis Peral of the European Union’s Institute for Strategic Studies

Air Force Lt. Col Aaron Prupas from U.S. Central Command

Biddle said that there were some “fireworks” between attendees, which is to be expected from a dozen wonks holed up in Kabul for about a month (there was a week of “extensive travel”) to debate weighty issues about the war. He evaded the questions of whether the group reached consensus — and, indeed, what conclusions people embraced. McChrystal will sign off, or not, on their recommendations by Aug. 15 and deliver them to Gates. As for what Biddle assessed, I’ll write about that in the next post.

Update: A friend of mine advises me to be more explicit about this. Notice how very very few of these experts are primarily Afghanistan experts. I’m not familiar with everyone on this list, particularly the Europeans, but this is a group of security experts, many of them quite excellent ones. No one here, to the best of my knowledge, primarily studies Afghanistan. If counterinsurgency holds local knowledge as a core principle, it’s worth asking why that perspective is underrepresented on the review.