Time To Refocus Afghan Policy After A Frustrated General’s Untimely Truthful Comments
What amazes me is that a magazine article not scheduled to be published until Friday has created a foreign policy crisis that undermines the direction the U.S. has taken in Afghanistan.
I’m talking about the Rolling Stone article leaked in advance to the Associated Press and other media outlets that the top commander in Afghanistan is displeased with the president and U.S. diplomats who he and his aids believe are undermining his plan to win over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
What I see in all this is a modern day comparison of President Truman flying to Wake Island and telling Gen. MacArthur, no he cannot drop an atomic bomb on China to end the Korean war. An exaggeration, yes. But the principle is the same.
What a general thinks of his commander-in-chief should remain private and essentially that is what McChrystal apologized.
He’s frustrated for signing on to an impossible mission which he crafted and agreed to an arbitrary troop withdrawal date by August 2011.
According to the article:
McChrystal felt sandbagged by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry claiming the government of President Hamid Karzai is corrupt.
His aids described Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan:
“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” a member of the general’s team is quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”
Vice President Joe Biden was mocked. His sin was favoring a more limited counter-terrorism approach and increased use of attack drones, which, unfortunately, kill innocent villagers with the same impunity as intended targets.
Another aide called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”
McChrystal himself said his first meeting with Obama was unimpressive and resented it being turned into a photo-op. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal said… “I was selling an unsellable position.”
The army leaders in Afghanistan were complimentary of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for insisting the president assign more troops to the mission even though the 30,000 were below the amount recommended.
NBC News reported when McChrystal called to apologize to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff “expressed his deep disappointment in the piece and the comments” in it during their 10-minute conversation.
What I found most revealing in the article is McChrystal’s own troops in the field challenging the general’s policy for being super cautious of accidental collateral damage when it comes to innocent Afghan civilians.
At one outpost, a soldier McChrystal had met earlier was killed in a house that the local U.S. commander had repeatedly asked to destroy. The request was denied, apparently out of concern that razing the house would anger locals whose allegiance the U.S. is trying to win.
“Does that make any (expletive) sense?” Pfc. Jared Pautsch asks. “We should just drop a (expletive) bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself, ‘What are we doing here?'”
What we have is the dilemma of the military carrying out an impossible mission with, as usual, one hand tied behind its back.
One reason I brought up the Gen. MacArthur reference is McChrystal is using the same public relations tactics as the old man did in Korea. In McChystal’s case it was to promote a success story of his mission.
Without the blessing of McChrystal, I doubt the Washington Post would have been granted total access to this story filed Monday.
It tells how a tribal leader led his village of Gizab to rebel against the Taliban and retake control and ultimately gained support from U.S. combat forces.
“We had enough of their oppression,” Lalay, the one-named shopkeeper who organized the uprising, said in recounting the late April battle. “So we decided to fight back.”
The significance plays right into the hand of what McChyrstal’s mission is all about.
U.S. diplomats and military officials view the rebellion as a milestone in the nearly nine-year-long war. For the first time in this phase of the conflict, ordinary Afghans in the violence-racked south have risen on their own to reclaim territory under insurgent control.
It is a turnabout that U.S. and Afghan officials were not certain would ever occur. One U.S. commander called it “perhaps the most important thing that has happened in southern Afghanistan this year.”
I don’t pay much heed to comments from generals calling their civilian leaders “wimps,” as McChrystal apparently has expressed.
What is curious is why a magazine such as Rolling Stone which does not have a national image of a right-wing war mongering propaganda machine, was allowed several weeks of access time following the general and his command staff.
I think the general knew damn well what he was doing. But, if he thought it would win favor for his mission he is dead wrong.
What this does is pick a scab off an old wound and refocus our attention on the Afghan war effort and why the hell we are there.
More than 1,000 American troops have died in that country fighting a cause where the real enemy is in neighboring Pakistan which we can’t invade with troops but allowed to fly over with drones with the tacit support of that country’s government.
McChrystal’s mission will take decades to accomplish at the rate it’s progressing with no assurances at the end the Afghan government and people give a damn.
It raises the specter of what’s in it for us despite the national security implications as an excuse.
The lone bright spot on the horizon is a Rubik’s Cube. That is what to do with the $1 trillion in mineral deposits that beckon for exploitation by competing nations whether it be the U.S., China, Russia, the Euros and others of that ilk. Solving that to everyone’s satisfaction could become the new bottom line.
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Posted comments are welcome and automatically go to my email address at [email protected] Remmers’ varied career spans 26 years in the newspaper business. Read a more thorough resume on The Remmers Report.