Petraeus’s Great Task

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America’s greatest serving general, David Petraeus, has his work cut out for him in Afghanistan. Not only must he contend with a resilient Taliban insurgency and a corrupt Afghan government, but he must also reckon with a fractious command structure and frustration amongst his troops. The war, America’s longest, is now in its ninth year. Petraeus is a respected commander, with proven experience with counterinsurgency in Iraq, where he oversaw the troop surge strategy that convinced Iraqis that America could win. But can he do the same in Afghanistan?

The American military, and those of its allies, have learned much from the successes in Iraq. The early, painful setbacks in Iraq forced the allies to learn on their feet. But Afghanistan is different. Its central government is too weak to establish effective control over terrain cleared of Taliban and drug lords by NATO troops. The Allies go in, win battles and leave. A few months later, after the failure of the government to establish a foothold, the Taliban and drug lords are back. Along the way, the NATO strategy became focused on avoiding civilian deaths, even at the expense of effectively waging war.

Petraeus is likely to address these failings. There are reports that the general has heard the pleas of the troops under his command and will seek to change the rules of engagement the NATO troops operate under, making it easier to do what they’re trained to do: locate and destroy the enemy. Even so, as Senator McCain has pointed out, Petraeus is being put in an untenable position: Even if he is able to implement his desired changes in strategy, if the administration clings stubbornly to its withdrawal date of summer of 2011, it won’t matter. The war will need much longer to be won, if indeed it can be won at all.

But perhaps the most worrisome issue facing Petraeus concerns reports that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency is deeply connected with the Taliban. This relationship, long rumored, was given yet more credence by a report issued this month by Matt Waldman, of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Governance. The report lays out in stark terms something that has been long reported — that the ISI, or at least large sections of it, are actively supporting the Taliban insurgency in its battle against American-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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  • USMCSniper

    The withdrawal date set by Obama in 2011 is not a strategy to win, it is to make a Vietnam betrayal style exit. This hearts and minds stuff was tried before on the peasent cultures in Vietnam and works only so long as there is an American presence. To win this war has to turn downright nasty with excursions into Pakistan with boots on the ground with air support and rules of engagement that are ruthless even if the collateral damage to civilians is massive. Winning, unfortunately means killing an awful lot of Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their civilian shields.

    • guestspeaker

      According to the 'Pentagon channel' the US is building the 'hugest' airbase in Afghanistan. Think we'll be leaving soon?

      Doing my homework, I have learned that the Lithium (and other minerals) was really discover in 1985 and that discovery was made by the Ruskies. Now what do y'all think is the real reason is for being in Afghanistan? However, before we could concentrate on the job there, Saddam had to be 'disappeared'. Anyway, that's the way I see it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

      I agree with you for the most part, Sniper. The only change I would make is that "winning the hearts and minds" lasts as long as the US troops are there, but increases with time. Look at Germany and Japan … our mortal enemies in WWII. We came, we stayed, but we didn't conquer. Now, they are democratic allies.

      Had we maintained a presence in South Vietnam, there would be a Republic of South Vietnam, to this day. Also, the loyalty of the people to their increasingly-democratic government would be much higher.

      However, the US people are not willing to make the necessary sacrifices … especially in time … to win wars like this.

  • mre

    I have come to believe that this is not the kind of war where we can win and leave. These people have been looking to the day they can take over for centuries. I am also not sure we can ever truly leave. It will have to be like babysitting. We will forever have to keep an eye out for any sign of anything. If we don't it will be worse than 9-11 I fear. They remind me of ants. You kill some and the they seem not to notice too much. They just keep on doing what they're doing.

    • S. HaLevi

      A very wise analysis. The islamic warriors use doctrines we do not fathom.
      To destroy that islamic formulation one must go and destroy their core basis and have the spiritual power to accept it as the only way to complete the task.
      We must be convinced and ruthless. Otherwise we will be bleeding our kids, ourselves and our resources and yet lose it all.
      No negotiations, compromises, "peace" pursuits until they are utterly defeated and unable to get up to kill others for generations.
      That will never happen under the present administration.

      • USMCSniper

        Kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out.. Scorched earth as the Romans did to the Cartinginians will definitely work!.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vienna1683 Vienna1683

    Win? Win what? A Sharia based governent that will be our eternal enemy. Some victory.

    Crush these people destroy their opium fields and set up bases far from the population. Pay them some occasional surprise visits.

    • shame

      1. Killing Osama
      2,. Killing Zawahiri
      3. Breaking Mullah Omar and his gang of thugs
      4. Building an Afghan economy on par with South Korea.
      5. Uniting the country from a series of renegade tribes into civilization

      I would start by dropping packages of tainted heroin out of a plane in narco areas. I wouldn't start with poison right out of the gate, but use taste aversion therapy like they do with wolves. If that didn't work, then yes, I would begin poisoning people with their own drugs. I would also release a biblical plague of weevils and aphids, making it impossible to farm at all in Afghanistan.

      I would also circumscribe the country with cluster bombs and barricades, build two walls, one around the entire country of Afghanistan, and the other circumscribing Wazhiristan. In the process burn ever Madrassa on the border that would nott deify David Petraeus as a God and acting Caliphate of the Arab world.

      Press on into Pakistan, issue fatwas decreeign bin Laden and Zawahiri as what they are, perverts and murderers, and arrest every Pakistani nuclear scientist that you could get your hands on.

    • DrBukk

      To win we must undermine the Taliban's source of income; running a protection and extortion racket on opium farmers. We should build a pharmaceutical plant to process opium into Rx drugs. A program to license growers and military protection of them will win this war. This is done in India and Turkey.

  • WildJew

    A few months back, General "David Petraeus cast Israel as the source of all America’s woes in the Middle East. To his great discredit, the general — in a Clintonesque fashion which, as we shall see, is probably not a coincidence — simultaneously denied making the statement, grudgingly admitted making it while minimizing its significance, and accused (Diana) West and others of misrepresenting his views."

    So wrote NRO's Andrew McCarthy

  • WildJew

    I believe America can survive a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, albeit a humiliating defeat will be humiliating. America cannot survive another 4 years of Barack Hussein Obama; post 2012. I'm not sure America can survive 4 years, much less 8 years of Obama. A humiliating defeat in Afghanistan will be Barack Hussein Obama's humiliating defeat. Can we afford another 4 years of this terrible man? I want him to fail. Does Mr. Gurney want him to succeed? If I had a son of military age, I would do my utmost to discourage him serving under this evil man in the White House.

    • Jim C.

      There will be no defeat because this isn't a war. There will be no humiliation because the troops know what they've accomplished and we're all going to look up to them and make sure they're honored. And their families will be happy to have them home,.

      • cochavi1

        Yes, and the problem will remain unsolved, because – as others have said – at best the US will have helped create a Sharia-based drug-dependand society. It might be a little better than what was there before the US came in. But in the end it will be similar enough, and Talib enough.

    • cochavi1

      What do you envisions, WildJew, as the 'modalities' of American collapse. That is, I think I understand you and you are thoroughly sincere about your prediction. Do you see a combination of economic and political collapse overlaid with spiritual? I hope this does not happen, but I think it has about a 30% chance of occurring in the next 10 years.

      • WildJew

        cochavi, I do not see how this incredible national debt is sustainable. Obama is moving the US toward a European-socialist model. Socialism is not what made the US economy a power-house. I am a conservative. I believe in private ownership of property. Obama wants to re-distribute wealth. He prefers government ownership of business and property. That he may have Marxist tendencies I cannot gainsay. Obama has deep sympathies for the world of Islam. He is courting violent regimes like Iran, Syria, Hamas. He is turning the US against Israel and other traditional American allies. If the American people do not wake up – vote these traitors out of office – America will have seen her better days..

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/WildJew WildJew

        I am not a prophet. From a spiritual point of view, turning against Israel towards Israel's enemies does not bode well for America's long-term prospects in my view.

        • cochavi1

          I agree. The question is if 1) America has turned fully against Israel; 2) this remains in place. I suspect that Obama loses in 2012 and the American general warm feeling towards Israel may be at least reflected in the new Pres' policies. Of course, this does very little towards Israeli recognition that it must find new resources – and belief – to assure its survival.

          In other words, all the energy spent to restore that previous equilibrium is wasted if we, as Jews, don't stand up for our rights to the land.

          Okay, so maybe you're not a prophet but you have good ideas and a backbone. That counts for quite a bit.

          • WildJew

            For my own selfish reasons, I am hoping your question or prediction #2) comes to pass because I want to sell my property and move to Israel. I need a window. The real estate market is nearly lifeless under Obama. I fear the economy might not recover if this incompetent man is re-elected in 2012, so in a way, bad news (here in the US) may be good news. Maybe we will have an indication in the mid-term elections this coming November. Americans are angry.

            Long-term, Israel needs to become more and more self-sufficient. She needs to manufacture as many of her own weapons as possible, including a good jet fighter like the Lavi. Land and natural resources are vital. The natural gas exploration and find near Haifa (purported to be 1/5 the size of US capacity) is a good sign. I would like to see an oil discovery. We can see the trend. America is gradually following Europe's anti-Israel, pro-Arab, pro-Islam decline. Israel will survive. I cannot say the same thing long term for the US. The US has many bitter enemies infiltrating this country; sleeper cells if you will. They can and will be activated one day, I believe. Here in my small town, we have two Islamic centers. Two of the 9/11 hijackers reportedly overnighted in our community, according to the editor of our newspaper. This state is a hot-bed for Islamic activity, among other states.

          • cochavi1

            Probably the economy will have an 'up' tick somewhere along the way. However, Obama's spending, and the cost of the oil slick and the time and energy to fix the damage he does will be enormous. I am long-term pessimistic about the US economy. The Israeli economy is relatively in a healthy state. That is one area in which Netanyahu and others can be said to be implementing sovereignty.

            Yes, Florida is full of active Muslims. There were the hijackers, and Sami elArian in tampa, and more. I believe the main school where Atta trained was in Venice (?). I think that is somewhere south of Tampa towards Naples, Fla. I have also read, true or not, that the real owner of that flight school was a guy called Hilliard, with possible CIA connections. It is all quite bizarre.

            Good luck with selling your property. If I remember, you have some agricultural enterprise. Who knows, maybe you can sell to some Saudi prince wanting to build a Wahhabi subdivision? :_)

          • WildJew

            I would love to sell to a Saudi prince. I'm not sure my immediate neighbors would look so kindly on it.

            "What? You sold to the 'V'-hhabis!"

            Lots of horse farms around me. Saudis like horses; especially Arabians. I wonder if Mr. Obama can help me? I'm sure Bush could have helped me. I'm kicking myself for not getting out of here when Bush was president; when the real estate market was pretty good.

          • cochavi1

            Ah well. Lots of us have made huge mistakes. Also, I believe the Saudis and other billionaires own much of the horse farm property in Kentucky. Makes the mind spin.

  • tim heekin

    untenable is correct. Consider; The Russians invaded Afghanistan. The Afghans fought the Russians with sticks and stones for 5 or six years. Then the U.S. started suppling them with weapons AND NOTHING ELSE! They weren't given any "advisors", uniforms, nobody formed any squads or battalions, no MASH units or helicopters. Nothing except guns & ammo. That's all they needed. The Afghans then proceeded to whip the Russian's collective ass. ……… in other words, if the Afghans were interested in whipping al qaeda or the taliban they could do it themselves. They aren't interested. The U.S. should exit Afghanistan via Iran take out the nuke facilities. Afghanistan is hopeless. Sun Tzu said avoid protracted wars……….pay attention

    • eerie Steve

      Sun Tzu also said the best defense is a great offense.

      Also, did the Russians, or Osama for that matter find a trillion dollars worth of minerals? Ceding Afghanistan would hand over all those resources to al-Qaeda and the Taliban

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/WildJew WildJew

        If Afghanistan is to be conquered, Pakistan must be conquered. When the former Deputy Secretary of State (hours after 9/11) threatened General Musharraf that the US might bomb Pakistan back to the stone age, he was not off by much. Obama does not have the stomach for it. Does he?

  • Steve Chavez

    STOP PUTIN FROM AIDING TALIBAN, AL QAEDA, AND IRAN!

    I call it "Putin's Revenge." We aided in the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, which was one of the factors that led to their downfall which they are very bitter about! The most bitter of all Communists were ours since they loved the Soviet Union more than their own. They were they mouthpiece of the Soviets and the KGB through use of CPUSA FRONT ORGANIZATIONS FUNDED BY THE KGB!!!

    "NO WAR ON IRAN" our COMMUNIST fronts now scream at Israel, their common enemy. Analyze that. Russia is aiding Iran with nuclear plants and other aid. Russia and Communist China block all meaning UN sanctions. Iran arms Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran made weapons, like IED's, have been found in Iraq KILLING OUR SOLDIERS. DON'T YOU THINK THEN THAT IRAN IS ARMING AFGHANISTAN INSURGENTS? ARE THEY USING RUSSIAN MADE WEAPONS TOO?

    "PUTIN'S REVENGE" is a goal to aid in our defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the whole Middle East and OUR COMMUNISTS will aid using "peace" as a weapon!!! "NO WAR ON IRAN!"

    • Steve Chavez

      YOU MUST REMEMBER THE ROLE OF CHINA AND THE SOVIET UNION DURING VIETNAM! Our "Make Love Not War" hippies, stoned out their minds on acid, declared victory! "Peace" as a weapon of war!

      They surely don't want any sort of "victory" in Afghanistan either!!! Those hippies, and their children, are in control of the White House and in ALL levels of government AND ALL STILL TAKE THEIR ORDERS, DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY, FROM THE KGB/FSB!

  • Turbeaux

    The reality is it has been the blind leading the blind since 2001 in Afghanistan and it is still the blind leading the blind in Afghanistan today in 2010. Too bad General McChrystal was fired for what he said in the article and not for his insane COIN strategy to win the hearts and minds of Muslims who are obligated to hate our guts per their religion no matter what and for the ridiculously over restrictive rules of engagement he imposed on our troops. The reality is the war in Afghanistan as defined isn't winnable because the political correct loons in charge of the war don't have the first clue about Islam even after 9 long years. Moreover, if you believe that the war in Iraq was somehow a victory, then you obviously believe in fairy tales and mermaids.

    With respect to Pakistan, Pakistan has been playing a double game with the USA as every Muslim country in the world also employs taqiyya to play a double game with the USA since even before 9/11. The nuclear arsenal in Pakistan should have been confiscated years ago and destroyed, as Pakistan will quickly become the nuclear supermarket for the Sunni world almost as soon as Iran renders the NPT not worth the paper it is written on.

    Our State Department and military have been hijacked and co-opted by leftwing political correct loons and we are losing this war as a result so bad it is pathetic.

  • tim heekin

    nine years of "offense" with no end in site, by difinition, defaults into a protrated war. In case you haven't noticed, as in Vietnam, there is precious little "offense" taking place. Fighting a war with handcuffs on does not constitute an offensive war. …as far as a "trillion dollars" of assets goes, Do you really think the talban or al-qeada can do anything about this? I would doubt if one could find six shovels amongst the lot.

  • http://exposedheads.blogspot.com/ JustaDog

    This is a no-win "war":

    1: A commander-in-chief that refuses to acknowledge the real enemy
    2: The false expectation that in the long term, Muslims will kill Muslims because the USA wants it so
    3: Allies in this region are only allies as long as American dollars are flowing into their country – and we are already broke
    4: For every radical Muslim killed there are probably about 10 training to take their place
    5: They do not play by any rules and the USA does, which instantly constrains the USA
    6: They are natural residents in their own region – we are the invaders
    7: The American government is AFRAID to link works like Muslim, Islam, terrorist, and jihad in the same sentence – Islamic terrorists have no fear

    • Jim C.

      It's not even a "war."

      Heck, it's barely a "counterinsurgency." "Insurgency" implies that Afghanistan has a viable government to overthrow.

      What the hell are we still doing there? This is a job for predator drones, CIA, Special Forces, and their swank counterparts in the private security industry.

  • 080

    Whatever happened to the argument about oil. I thought we needed the stuff but no-one ever talks about it. I don't think that Afghanis are drenched in it but I am thinking of the overall picture: our strategic position in the Middle East. In my opinion we won't be leaving soon.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/defendjohnhatley defendjohnhatley

    Matt, this is the comment I left on the facebook page of Mike Emanuel – WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT / FOX NEWS, last night: (Also, FYI – Writer – John L. Work covered our story on the front page of FRONT PAGE MAG in Feb 2010.)
    http://www.defendjohnhatley.com (THE IRAQ WAR HAS FLAWS!!!!!!)

    Mike, I also have a book in the works and my writer and agent have titled it, "Scapegoat". If anyone can speak about the flaws of these wars, I certainly can, because the flaw of the detainee catch & release policy allowed 87,000 to be detained in the Iraq war, but 77,000 were released, as reported by CNN last year. In my own research, this past March, an overcrowded TIF -Theater Internment Facility named Camp Bucca in Iraq was closed & handed over to the Iraqi govt. What do you think happened to those detainees? Most likely set free, back out onto the streets of Iraq to be 2nd chancers at killing & or maiming our American soldiers.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/defendjohnhatley defendjohnhatley

    …………..continued………………..

    Next month, in July, a slightly smaller and also overcrowed TIF named Camp Cropper, which our unit used at Pre-surge, will be closed & handed over to the Iraqi govt. What do u think will happen to all those detainees? Our ground troops are having to fight the same enemy combatants over & over again. I have a Gold Star father, (his son was killed by an IED and was one of our soldiers) who will tell you that he believes his son died due to the flawed catch & release policy. Less than 1% of America knows of what our ground troops are facing downrange. I know. I live, breath and eat it every day. While McChrystal announced 5 months ago that the war in Afghan is not really a war, but more of an exeditionary force, then they should have pulled our Marines & Army out of there and sent in the Peace Corps, because the 96th Hour Rule which Gen Petraeus "scrapped" and announced to the Senate Arms Committe, directing his statement to Senator Lindsey Graham of S.C., that it was a flawed policy that simply did not work……..that was not the end.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/defendjohnhatley defendjohnhatley

    ……………..continued……………………………………………………………

    The Pentagon was watching and had CNN post a comment on their CNN blog that it was not entirely scrapped. Ground troops can hold onto an enemy combatant for up to 2 weeks OR longer if deemed necessary,but look…..my point is that they are eventually released. Captain Hill's case, he was prosecuted for his incident with the 96th hour rule. A few days later in the very same week, Gen Petraeus announced to the Senate Arms Committe that there was yet another flawed policy in Afghan and that it was the program that was set up to train AFghanis to be policemen & that it was now under major overhaul. The ROE – Rules of engagement is now getting lots of attention, thank GOD………but what about the rhetoric about the flawed detainee catch & release in Iraq that still exists to this day???? It continues to put our ground troops, sons and daughters in danger there, as it did when my husbands company waas there at pre-surge. My husband was an Infantry First Sergeant, his responsibility to bring all his boys back home alive.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/defendjohnhatley defendjohnhatley

    ……………last comment block…………………..******************************

    He was sent to prison for Life, for allegedly killing 4 x enemy combatants who got into a previous fire fight with his patrol and tried to kill our soldiers. They tested positive (hands) for X-spray (gun powder residue), found with a huge cache of weapons and were hiding in a house. Somebody…………..please help me out here. I served 6 years in the US Army and my son is in the Marines. I told Glenn Beck my story and his producer the other night, as well as others at the Marcus Luttrell event in Houston. Every single person who finds out about our case, gets enraged over how our American troops are being vigorously prosecuted and imprisoned, like never before.

  • Dave Petteys

    When we define the struggle with Islamic Jihad as "a war on terror", and when we cannot name our enemy owing to political correctness, we are doomed to fail. Jihad can be waged four ways: with the mouth, the pen, the money, as well as the sword. Our "War on Terror" (WOT) only covers one of the four.

    Every time you see the Dhimmis fawning over "Shari'ah Compliant" Financial products, this is "Jihad with the money" and one more nail in our coffin.
    Dave Petteys

  • JasonPappas

    We are certainly doing things the hard way. Trying to change the culture of a nation like Afghanistan is a social work project that has less chance than turning an inner city slum into a quiet flourishing suburb. Who are we kidding?

    The problem isn't that they hate us (they always will) but that they don't fear us. We should be having a debate about what it would take to establish a deterrent. Neither political party has addressed this issue. Both sides of the aisle want to make Afghanistan into something it just can't be.

    • Jim C.

      I agree: they should fear us.

      Though I was and am against the Iraq War, and voted against the man twice, I'm no Bush hater. I do appreciate that he put some much-needed teeth into our foreign policy–though I don't appreciate the foolish, ill-planned, protracted, not-really-war, nation-building exercise we are currently and wisely trying to extricate ourselves from.

      Point being, we showed we are no paper tiger. But we are not at war against soldiers and states–we're at war against ideology and shadows. Therefore, we should fight shadow with shadow. Special forces, CIA, private security black ops, propaganda–THIS is precisely how this conflict should be staged. Our soldiers never know who the enemy is until they're attacking; that is EXACTLY how we should be operating.

      • JasonPappas

        Some interesting thoughts, Jim. While I don't know enough about military tactics, I respect the option you suggest.

        My complaint is that there wasn't a debate about the possible types of military actions and different possible goals of such actions.

        It's odd because Bush campaigned against nations-building in 2000 yet adopted it without debate. I've tried to debate the issue with friends on the left and libertarians on the right with little success. They evade the issue by saying "if we weren't there we wouldn't be nations-building." I retort "but when we do go to war, should this be our goal?"

        But no one wanted to debate the issue. I find that interesting. Relatively few casualties came from invasion (of either Iraq of Afghanistan) compared to the casualties from occupation and nations-building. Yet, nations-building is seldom addressed. I fear that it is now taken for granted. We have become the police of the world! My friends on the right should be outraged at this outcome.

  • WAYNE

    OBAMA HAS NO INTENTION OF WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN. HE IS SETTING UP GENERAL PETRAEUS TO BE THE FALL GUY TO TAKE THE BLAME AWAY FROM OBAMA. I HOPE THE GENERAL IS SMART ENOUGH NOT TO TRUST OBAMA IN ANY WAY OR BELILEVE WHAT HE SAYS

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/malcolmkyle malcolmkyle

    Our continued involvement in Afghanistan is a product of our failed policy of drug prohibition.

    Prohibition isn't like a disease where we're still waiting for the cure to be discovered – we know the cure for this. This isn't like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet – it doesn't take some stroke of genius or feat of technology. We have everything we need, right now, to end this moronothon. Rarely in the history of mankind have we encountered a problem of such magnitude and consequence that is so eminently solvable.

    The Founding Fathers were not social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to any particular narrow religious moral order. That is what the whole concept of unalienable individual rights means, and sumptuary laws, especially in the form of prohibition, were something they continually warned about.