Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy review says that the Afghanistan war needs to be properly resourced. But there are so, so, so many elements within it
Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy review says that the Afghanistan war needs to be properly resourced. But there are so, so, so many elements within it that place that statement within a subordinate context. For instance: “Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely.” And: “Resourcing communicates commitment, but we must also balance force levels to enable effective [Afghan force] partnering and provide population security, while avoiding perceptions of coalition dominance.” And: “We cannot succeed simply by trying harder; ISAF must now adopt a fundamentally new approach… in addition to a proper level of resourcing.”
That approach is familiar to anyone who read McChrystal’s counterinsurgency guidance or the “metrics” he set out with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Protect the population. Give the population material *reasons *to support the Afghan government and NATO. “Prioritize responsive and accountable governance,” which appears like a pipe dream now that Hamid Karzai looks to have stolen an election. Reorganize the NATO command to better fit these missions. Reverse the Taliban’s momentum in the next year — or, he doesn’t say explicitly, mitigate failure. It’s also, as Josh Foust has observed, more of a quantitative change from McChrystal’s predecessor than a qualitative one.
For those who worry about mission creep, this document cites two foundational texts for it. First is the ISAF mission statement: “ISAF, in support of the [Afghan government], conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvement in governance and socio-economic development, in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable security that is observable to the population.” Notice that there is nothing in there about al-Qaeda. McChrystal has to operate within the boundaries of what the political leadership in the various NATO capitols has set, and which the United Nations has blessed, as the proper functions of NATO forces in Afghanistan — and a lot of this is the vestige of Donald Rumsfeld’s belief that U.S. forces should hunt al-Qaeda and do nothing else.
The second text is Obama’s March 27 speech, which he says provides “a clear path of what we must do.” What Obama is doing now is determining whether McChrystal’s take indeed matches that speech. But notice that McChrystal is saying that these two texts provide a foundation for the mission in Afghanistan, and from there he argues that considering the deteriorating situation on the ground, a counterinsurgency approach is the way to best achieve those goals. If Obama doesn’t ultimately agree, this straight-line progression sketched by McChrystal will raise the question — a question that Obama anticipated — of whether Obama has backed away from that earlier speech.
Then there’s McChrystal’s other audience: the rest of the military. The strategy review is a serious case in point for what Col. Gian Gentile calls “the matrix” of counterinsurgency within the U.S. Army. Since coming to Afghanistan, McChrystal has restricted the use of airstrikes and also placed serious operational restrictions on the ability of troops to return fire when insurgents retreat into populated areas. Avoiding civilian casualties can be called an obsession in this document, as is optimizing NATO forces not to cause them. McChrystal basically tells the military that it makes needless adversaries, and has for years:
Many describe the war in Afghanistan as a war of ideas, which I believe to be true. However, this is a ‘deeds-based’ information environment where perceptions derive from actions, such as how we interact with the population and how quickly things improve.
In other words: the enemy is often an enemy we cause to be an enemy, so step one of triaging the situation has to focus on how many enemies we can stop causing to be enemies. Any U.S. or NATO action — like, say, raiding a hospital — has to be viewed through that prism. It’s not a lesson that many in the Army, even after Iraq, will easily embrace.
One more thing about McChrystal’s focus on self-induced errors. By extension, that includes the “crisis of confidence” in the Afghan government due to corruption, which is another of McChrystal’s obsessions. Without that changing, his assessment seems to say, neither will the Afghanistan war. And that’s the biggest obstacle his strategy faces.
Giffords shooting leads nation to introspection and political finger wagging
In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this weekend that critically injured Rep.
EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management
At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from
E-Verify Mandate Begins Today
The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm
EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules
The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.
EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’
In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work
EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards
EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’
All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of
EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some