Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prospects: Not Bright

General Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was blunt, and starkly realistic, in the 66-page document he submitted to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on August 30. The Washington Post's Bob Woodward reported McChrystal arguing "failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)-- while Afghan scurity capacity matures-- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."If he doesn't receive the increase in troop strength he is requesting, McChrystal contends, the mission "will likely result in failure." He concludes

Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure.

General McChrystal implies that if additional soldiers are not committed to the war, the mission will fail. If proper resources are committed, it may fail. With Republicans poised to charge Obama with having "lost Afghanistan," the President is left with no good options.

How did we get to this place? Defense Secretary tells us in this exchange on Sunday with CNN's John King:

GATES: Well, I will tell you, I think that the strategy that the president put forward in late March is the first real strategy we have had for Afghanistan since the early 1980s. And that strategy was more about the Soviet Union than it was about Afghanistan.

KING: You served in the Bush administration. That's a pretty broad damnation of the Bush strategy.

GATES: Well, the reality is, we were fighting a holding action. We were very deeply engaged in Iraq. I increased -- I extended the 10th Mountain Division the first month I was on this job in January of '07. I extended -- I put another brigade into Afghanistan in the spring of 2007. And that's all we had to put in there. Every -- we were -- we were too stretched to do more. And I think we did not have the kind of comprehensive strategy that we have now.

KING: And if it comes to the point of sending more, this time, if the president agrees and General McChrystal gets -- maybe it's 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000, do we have the troops now? If you needed 40,000, could you find it?

GATES: Well, I think, if the president were to decide to approve additional combat forces, they really probably could not begin to flow until some time in January.

Having toppled a genocidal dictator in Iraq, George W. Bush had a choice: commit adequate resources to fight a war in a nation strategically nearly irrelevant- or to fight a war on terrrorism in Afghanistan. He chose the low-hanging fruit. Barack Obama, and the nation, are now left suffering the consequences of appallingly bad judgement.

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