Obama Af-Pak policy looking for exit signs

posted at 10:12 am on November 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama will use his speech at West Point to conduct a delicate balancing act on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  On one hand, he will commit more than 30,000 more troops to the war, which should earn the approval of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and those tasked with implementing the COIN strategy Obama has long demanded.  He will also start working towards an American exit, according to the New York Times, which may lessen the disapproval from the anti-war Left, but will also undermine whatever good Obama’s troop escalation will do:

President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday.

Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops, but also to convey how he intends to turn the fight over to the Kabul government.

“It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”

The officials would not disclose the time frame. But they said it would not be tied to particular conditions on the ground nor would it be as firm as the current schedule for withdrawing troops in Iraq, where Mr. Obama has committed to withdrawing most combat units by August and all forces by the end of 2011.

Then what kind of time frame is it?  A series of operational benchmarks might be in order here, matching American strategic decisions with conditions on the ground — the normal case for war management, it should be noted.  But in this case, Obama and the White House don’t seem particularly interested in that kind of strategic planning.  Artificial timetables are almost the worst kind of planning, where a nation signals its disinterest in the fight by sticking to calendar dates — but according to the Times, the White House won’t do that, either.

So what’s left?  War by whim.  We will apparently fight until we get tired of it, and whether we win or pull out by a certain date are secondary considerations at best, at least according to this report.  Jules Crittenden sees this as Obama attempting to eat his cake and have it, too:

Sounds like he wants it both ways. To be able to assure everyone  we’re getting out while assuring everyone we’re not going anywhere. If that’s the case, this promises to be a tour de force of Obamian rhetorical gymnastics, possibly topping even that wretched speech where he was hailed as the second coming of Martin Luther King Jr. for lame excuses for his bigot of a pastor.

Meanwhile, I was just listening to NPR kvetching about how he sells this to an American public that is increasingly blah blah blah.

Here’s how you do it. You tell them you are in it to win. That it isn’t over till it’s over. That we have a volunteer military that knows what it is doing, is highly experienced, and highly motivated, which is why we’re willing to give them what they need for the job. And by the way, remind them that in time of war, the best, most useful and noblest thing any American can do is join them. The next best thing is unreservedly supporting what they are doing.

And the third-best thing to do would be to get the hell out if you’re not going to commit to victory.  This war requires a serious commitment, much more so than Iraq did.  It will take a generation or longer to stabilize Afghanistan and provide it an infrastructure to tamp down extremism and modernize a population more connected to the 14th century than the 21st.  There is a serious question as to whether any American President could guarantee that kind of commitment, let alone one that has taken almost four months to decide whether or not to properly resource a strategy he himself demanded for over two years and officially imposed eight months ago.

Blundering around Afghanistan with no commitment to do anything except leave, and leave on some unknown combination of the stars and the winds, is about as bad a choice as it gets.  It undermines the entire basis for COIN, which is to ensure stability through security and trust — trust based on our commitment to the security of the individual communities that resist the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  It’s a waste of resources, and worse yet, a waste of fine men and women in our military who want to win this fight and defeat extremism and terrorism.

Let’s hope that Obama skips the off-ramps and focuses on victory tomorrow night.


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If previous “speeches” are any indication, I expect that the World’s Greatest Teleprompter Reader will deliver another “WTF was that all about?” waste of network prime time.

n0doz on November 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM

His 2nd LT Robert Gibbs is stumbling all over himself now with the White House choir people.

bluegrass on November 30, 2009 at 1:55 PM

If he doesn’t change the RoE and actually try to kill the enemy, Ed you are correct. But he isn’t going to do either of those things.

It will take a generation or longer to stabilize Afghanistan and provide it an infrastructure to tamp down extremism and modernize a population more connected to the 14th century than the 21st.

No, it wouldn’t take long at all once a serious commitment to destroy they enemy we put into implementation. Again, Bozo isn’t up to this, for many many reasons.

dogsoldier on November 30, 2009 at 2:27 PM

And the third-best thing to do would be to get the hell out if you’re not going to commit to victory.

Define “Victory”

This war requires a serious commitment, much more so than Iraq did. It will take a generation or longer to stabilize Afghanistan and provide it an infrastructure to tamp down extremism [more accurately known as Islam, that which must not be spoken anymore in Afghanistan than at Fort Hood] and modernize a population more connected to the 14th century than the 21st.

The American people will not put up with such madness for that long.

MB4 on November 30, 2009 at 2:29 PM

If we make a serious commitment, we will win. Afganistan is a pushover compared to the fiercest foreign foe we ever fought – Imperial Japan. If 0bama is unwilling to make such a commitment (he isn’t) we should leave today rather than have one more drop of American blood spilled so 0bama can claim he is fighting the purveyours of man-made disasters.

Lou Budvis on November 30, 2009 at 2:36 PM

This war requires a serious commitment, much more so than Iraq did. It will take a generation or longer to stabilize Afghanistan and provide it an infrastructure to tamp down extremism and modernize a population more connected to the 14th century than the 21st.

Circa 2049:

Just about ten twenty thirty forty years ago I set out on Obama’s Afghanistan road,
Seekin’ my fame and glory, lookin’ to turn the POS mullah’s hemorrhoid into a pot of gold.
Well, things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! lord, stuck in Obama’s Afghanistan yet again.

Flew in yet again on a big plane, I hope I’ll be in one piece flyin out when I go.
I was yet again just passin’ through, must now be yet another 5 10 15 20 tours or more.
Running out of time and patience [
"Not to complain but whatever the hell happened to my youth?!"], looks like they took still more of my friends.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Obama’s Afghanistan yet again.

The Hope and Change man in the White House said yet again I was on my way.
Somewhere I lost his connection, he ran out of words to say.
I came into Kabul, yet another one year stand, looks like the plans fell through yet again
Oh ! lord, stuck in Obama’s Afghanistan yet again.

Mmmm…
If I only had a woman ["Hey Jack, do you remember what a woman is?"], for evry Obama tour Ive done.
And evry time Ive had to fight while cheered on by CINO’s Obama and his many successors sat back home oblivious to Islam and power drunk.
You know, Id like to catch the next plane back to where Im from.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Obama’s Afghanistan yet again.
Oh ! lord, Im stuck in Obama’s Afghanistan yet again.

- CCR Soldier Boy

MB4 on November 30, 2009 at 2:38 PM

When US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill, went to the Iraqi parliament on Nov.22 to lobby for a compromise in an impasse over a new election law, some members of the assembly demanded that he should not allowed to enter the building, commented a UAE paper.
“So much for the once-dominant American influence in Baghdad. It also reflects the reality that Washington is nowhere near the “strategic” objectives of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

There have always been objections to US envoys in Iraq. Was Hill actually ejected or barred from the building? The presence of democratically-elected representatives making such decisions was a strategic objective.

The paper observed that recent developments have shown that the US is no longer able to control the course of events in Iraq. That translates into a collapse of whatever the US built so far in Iraq and the country reverting to chaos whenever the US military completes its promised withdrawal.

The US has not “controlled” events in Iraq since the Interim Council shut itself down a year early to hand over to a Constitutional government. That does not equate to “chaos”.

It isn’t suprising that a dictatorship like the UAE puts out propaganda equating democracy with “chaos”. It is suprising that any American should repeat it as true.

Chris_Balsz on November 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

If we make a serious commitment, we will win. Afganistan is a pushover compared to the fiercest foreign foe we ever fought – Imperial Japan. If 0bama is unwilling to make such a commitment (he isn’t) we should leave today rather than have one more drop of American blood spilled so 0bama can claim he is fighting the purveyours of man-made disasters.

Lou Budvis on November 30, 2009 at 2:36 PM

Since the days of the Indian Wars to Mogadishu, once Civilian Authority decides on containment and over-the-horizon combat, it will be healthier for the careers of ranking officers to allow Americans to die in the trenches than tolerate effective warfighting. Capable and aggressive action would demonstrate that the war could be carried to the enemy effectively, given the resources; this would strip Congress of the excuse for denying those resources. Therefore Congress and the Administration would punish any American commander who offers more than stagnation.

There is no country al Qaeda will not attack Americans. There is no line of withdrawal where you can rest assured we can contain this problem and our losses. Offering to quit the fight means a USS Cole or a Khobar Towers every month, if Al Qaeda feels like it.

Chris_Balsz on November 30, 2009 at 3:18 PM

Even your boy NIxon saw the writing on that wall, BS’d about victory long enough to get re-elected, and then cut and ran. A smart move, just four years too late.

Bleeds Blue on November 30, 2009 at 10:53 AM

Better read your real history books again…it has been proven beyond a doubt that South Viet Nam, right up to the surrender, was peaceful, there were few (if any) Viet Cong, they were North.
The press, and weak politicians gave every indication that they were going to pull out of the war…good strategy you think.
And shame on you for not honoring the millions killed by Pol Pot, and our liberal sympathizers here in the U.S.
I noticed you gave no links or quotes to back up your assertions…
Here are a few facts to straighten you out.
Oh, and just to set the record straight…Saigon, the capitol fell to the Viet Cong two years after we left Viet Nam…congress cut all the funding to Viet Nam, and that began the collapse.
China and Russia never wavered in their support, despite getting their butts kicked up and down the whole country.

Remember: Fascism, what you support, has killed over 100 million people in the past 70 years.

right2bright on November 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

So what’s left? War by whim. We will apparently fight until we get tired of it, and whether we win or pull out by a certain date are secondary considerations at best, at least according to this report. Jules Crittenden sees this as Obama attempting to eat his cake and have it, too:

Sounds like he wants it both ways. To be able to assure everyone we’re getting out while assuring everyone we’re not going anywhere. If that’s the case, this promises to be a tour de force of Obamian rhetorical gymnastics, possibly topping even that wretched speech where he was hailed as the second coming of Martin Luther King Jr. for lame excuses for his bigot of a pastor.

Meanwhile, I was just listening to NPR kvetching about how he sells this to an American public that is increasingly blah blah blah.

Here’s how you do it. You tell them you are in it to win. That it isn’t over till it’s over. That we have a volunteer military that knows what it is doing, is highly experienced, and highly motivated, which is why we’re willing to give them what they need for the job. And by the way, remind them that in time of war, the best, most useful and noblest thing any American can do is join them. The next best thing is unreservedly supporting what they are doing.

And the third-best thing to do would be to get the hell out if you’re not going to commit to victory. This war requires a serious commitment, much more so than Iraq did. It will take a generation or longer to stabilize Afghanistan and provide it an infrastructure to tamp down extremism and modernize a population more connected to the 14th century than the 21st. There is a serious question as to whether any American President could guarantee that kind of commitment, let alone one that has taken almost four months to decide whether or not to properly resource a strategy he himself demanded for over two years and officially imposed eight months ago.

For one thing, no one is even seriously talking about the US and NATO just pulling out, for another if we did that it would only be a matter of time before there was a repeat of 911 and we would be right back over there. The truth is the terrorists think we will bug out, that we do not have the stomach for a long fight, they are counting on us abandoning the mission and our allies. They know what a great propaganda tool it would be for them..and that would be a crime considering the lives that have already been lost.

Terrye on November 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

MB4:

What was the point of that?

Terrye on November 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM

From Riehl World:

On what looks to be tear-filled stationary.

Dear Barack, I almost got off my fat arse and campaigned for you. But I did make a website post, or two. That said.

If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”

The thing is when you try to please everyone, you please no one. Everybody knows that. BTW, when did Obama promise to bring all the troops home from Afghanistan? I don’t recall anything of the kind.

Terrye on November 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

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