On February 17, 2009 (just about a month after swearing an oath to defend his Country against all enemies foreign and domestic) it was reported that Barack Obama was committing an additional 17,000 troops to the Afghanistan “conflict” in order “[t]o meet urgent security needs.”
We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists. So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future…To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.”
Two days later, on March 29, 2009 it was reported that Barack Obama was committing “4,000 troops to Afghanistan along with hundreds of civilian specialists in an effort to confront what he considers “the central challenge facing [that] country.” Now the master of indecisiveness is promising “to announce new strategies for both countries Friday” (September 25, 2009).
To the detriment of us all, while Obama waffles and flips and flops (like the fish out of water we all knew he WOULD be in trying to fake it as a legitimate Commander in Chief) between all these strategies he can’t seem to make up his mind about, 317 MORE Soldiers have died fighting in defense of Operation Enduring Freedom which is more than 30% of the total lives lost during the entire 8 years of the conflict.
This is a record no man should ever be proud of. Barack Obama’s incompetence is directly and solely to blame for the flag-draped coffins of grief that have been delivered upon hundreds of American families and shame to the office he should never have been allowed to hold.
Let us go back in time to the Petraeus report to Congress in the spring of 2008 and the eerily similar difficulties the General had in Iraq.
Various elements push Iraqs ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminal gangs pose significant threats. Al Qaedas senior leaders, who still view Iraq as the central front in their global strategy, send funding, direction, and foreign fighters to Iraq. Actions by neighboring states compound Iraqs challenges. Syria has taken some steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters through its territory, but not enough to shut down the key network that supports AQI. And Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way, through its lethal support to the Special Groups. Finally, insufficient Iraqi governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and corruption add to Iraqs problems. These challenges and recent weeks violence notwithstanding, Iraqs ethno-sectarian competition in many areas is now taking place more through debate and less through violence. In fact, the recent escalation of violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq was dealt with temporarily, at least, by most parties acknowledging that the rational way ahead is political dialogue rather than street fighting.
I admit to not being a Military strategy expert, but it’s not much of a stretch for me to see how similar the difficulties in Iraq were back then to the issues General McChrystal finds himself confronted with today. In asking for more troops on HIS battlefield, along with a host of other resources and a palpable desperation in suggesting that failure in Afghanistan is clearly NOT out of the question, General McChrystal has this to say about the state of the war in Afghanistan:
The stakes in Afghanistan are high. NATO’s Comprehensive Strategic Political Military Plan and President Obama’s strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan have lad out a clear path of what we must do. Stability in Afghanistan is an imperative; if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or has insufficient capability to counter transnational terrorists – Afghanistan could again become a base for terrorism, with obvious implications for regional stability.
The situation in Afghanistan is serious; neither success nor failure can be taken for granted. Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many overall indicators suggest the situation is deteriorating. We face not only a growing and resilient insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans — in both their government and the international community — that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.
Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or “doubling down” on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.
Many of the specifics that McChrystal goes on to discuss in this report suggest, like in Iraq, that we need to be with and among the Afghans…that we need to provide them with security and justice and a belief that they can trust their government and its representatives (first using our OWN security resources while the Afghans themselves can assume these responsibilities) and that we can prove to them that we stand with them in this fight until they can stand on their own…however long and at whatever cost might be necessary for them (and us) to do so. It is this approach that gave the Iraqis the confidence to come forward and confide in us regarding where the bad guys were, what they were up to, and WHO they were that mingled amongst them. No such trust exists in Afghanistan today, and no actions from the Obama administration thus far in its existence have given the Afghan people any reason to believe we can be trusted any time soon.
For all that can be fairly said about the mistakes of the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan, one thing has become quite apparent; Obama has not learned from any of them. He may be interested in success, but sadly the success Obama seeks appears to be in the voting booth and not on the battlefield. In the meantime, Soldiers die as they await a strategy and a plan…and the resources necessary…to accomplish them.