Civilian, military leaders at odds over Afghan war

In early March, after weeks of debate across a conference table in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the participants in President Obama’s strategic review of the war in Afghanistan figured that the most contentious part of their discussions was behind them. Everyone, save Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, agreed that the United States needed to mount a comprehensive counterinsurgency mission to defeat the Taliban.

That conclusion, which was later endorsed by the president and members of his national security team, would become the first in a set of recommendations contained in an administration white paper outlining what Obama called “a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan, the document stated, would require “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.”

To senior military commanders, the sentence was unambiguous: U.S. and NATO forces would have to change the way they operated in Afghanistan. Instead of focusing on hunting and killing insurgents, the troops would have to concentrate on protecting the good Afghans from the bad ones.

And to carry out such a counterinsurgency effort the way its doctrine prescribes, the military would almost certainly need more boots on the ground.

To some civilians who participated in the strategic review, that conclusion was much less clear. Some took it as inevitable that more troops would be needed, but others thought the thrust of the new approach was to send over scores more diplomats and reconstruction experts. They figured a counterinsurgency mission could be accomplished with the forces already in the country, plus the 17,000 new troops Obama had authorized in February.

“It was easy to say, ‘Hey, I support COIN,’ because nobody had done the assessment of what it would really take, and nobody had thought through whether we want to do what it takes,” said one senior civilian administration official who participated in the review, using the shorthand for counterinsurgency.

Read the full story in The Washington Post


  1. woody188

    The Soviet Union had 500,000 troops in Afghanistan and didn’t have to cross any oceans to get there and it bankrupted their country.

    The USA is already bankrupt after nearly 8 years in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. How long until it comes home to roost?

    We might want to worry less about winning and worry more about our own survival. An overseas military loss is preferable to another Great Depression that would result in the same overseas loss due to the end of funding.

    Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain

  2. Carl Nemo

    Welcome back Griff… :)

    Thanks for the link article. I thought the Chinese analogy great, but the final paragraph promoting so-called “free trade” caused me concern. True free trade yes, but not the current trade relations we have with many of our Far Eastern and South American trading partners. It’s lobsided free trade with us offering them an open door to U.S. markets, while these nations have restrictions on our products. To me this is “rigged trade” benefiting the shadowy negotiators and their corporatist sponsors who allow them to hammer out these deals.

    Btw, the Chinese analogy might not be too far from the truth concerning a future scenario where America the broke and busted is being harrassed from our southern and quite possibly northern borders by Chinese backed insurgents. Nuclear war is not an option due to its cataclysmic impact on the planet so guerilla incursions might just happen and there’s little we can do about it. The result would be to turn the U.S. into a garrison state. We could use the referenced Chinese aid packages right now as far as I’m concerned… 😀

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. bryan mcclellan

    Shame on you Griff, don’t you know that GazzCrustes has declared this to be a ‘what if’ free zone.