Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Obama Finally Near A Decision On Afghanistan?

He certainly could be:

President Barack Obama will huddle with his national security team on Monday evening to discuss several policy options for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The unexpected meeting is fueling speculation that a final decision on Afghanistan may be imminent.

The White House updated the president's schedule Monday morning to reflect a meeting with national security principals in the Obama administration's ongoing consideration of strategy for U.S. forces in southeast Asia.

The group will meet at 8 p.m. Monday, and will include Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other top civilian and military leaders.

Hmmm...that makes,what three - or is it four - meetings with General McChrystal total since Obama became commander-in-chief of what he called the real war during the campaign? And over three months since General McChrystal requested additional troops and support?

There's some scuttlebutt that Obama may make an announcement tonight on this, but I would think he would probably do it on Friday,to miss the news cycle. And the president himself said previously that an announcement would likely come after Thanksgiving.

My first thought is that the president will vote present, giving McChrystal half or less than the 40,000 aditional troops he requested, but I also expect Prez Zero to throw us a curveball, in the form of a written-in-stone exit strategy.

I suspected that there were some back channel negotiations going on once I found out that Afghan president Karzai had invited Taliban leaders to a Loya Jirga, a grand council meeting of Afghan tribal leaders.

Apparently the Obama Administration has been pursuing negotiations with the Taliban on its own:

It comes to our attention that the MEMRI Blog highlights an article from the Saudi al-Watan in Arabic that - according to an Afghan source - the United States is talking to the Taliban seeking to trade control of 5 provinces in exchange for the cessation of attacks on US bases. MEMRI summarizes:

An Afghan source in Kabul reports that U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is holding secret talks with Taliban elements headed by the movement's foreign minister, Ahmad Mutawakil, at a secret location in Kabul. According to the source, the U.S. has offered the Taliban control of the Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan, Kunar and Nuristan provinces in return for a halt to the Taliban missile attacks on U.S. bases.

Kunar province borders the Khyber Pass region where the majority of US and NATO supplies pass enroute from Pakistan. And the remaining four provinces constitute fully the southern 25% of Afghanistan's territory.

In other words, the same kind of deal that the Pakistanis made with the Taliban and other Islamist elements that turned out so badly.

I'm speculating, but it could be that those negotiations are very far along, so that President Obama's new strategy may just be a 'ceasefire' with us ceding territory to the Taliban with us involved in a spate of 'nation building' before bugging out by a firm handover date..which could be why Karzai is now talking to the Taliban and seeking a deal.

And yes, from the terms of US security this is an unbelievably bad idea if that's the way this deal goes down. We'll see what develops..


Johnny Whitewater said...

I know this administration doesn't inspire confidence, but it's hard to imagine even these clowns negotiating to cede control to the Taliban. Especially when the speculation is he's going to send 34,000 or so.

But hey, I guess the speculation is only as good as the next Elkenberry telegram

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Johnny,
I figure 20-25K, but with a written-in -stone exit date and a taliban area of control.

After what Obama and Kerry pulled on Karzai with insisting on a runoff, I doubt he's still a reliable ally either,and I cna hardly blame him. Note the bit about Karzai inviting the Taliban to the Council...

Anonymous said...


I was wondering why you didn't balance your critique of Pres. Obama's deliberative process over whether to send, or not to send, more troops to Afghanistan with a comparison of how Pres. Bush, facing a similar situation in 2006 in Iraq, waited for the year long results of the Iraq Study Group and then rejected their recommendations -- eventually going with Gen. Petraeus's COIN surge plan?

Also, according to both the Stars & Stripes and McClatchy newspapers, which we soldiers over here are fortunate enough to read, even if Pres. Obama were to grant Gen. McCrystal his full request, it won't be until spring at the earliest that the U.S. has enough troops to send. And that's because there aren't nearly enough, at present, to send without risking promises of much needed dwell time to already over-deployed troops currently in the field, not to mention Afghanistan, which unlike Iraq, has a "fighting season" which means it's very hard to hit the bad guys in the dead of winter.

You can read about these facts and more here:

I'm sure you'll want to integrate these dynamics as well as others, because it's apparent you spend a great of time analyzing these current affairs and are more concerned about getting it right rather than making trivial political hay out of something as serious as war and who should fight and when.


Spc. Patricks
Task Force Atlas
Al Asad, Iraq

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Spc. Patricks, and welcome back. You bring up a number of interesting points.

I've been covering the AfPak War for quite some time,even when the media focus was on Iraq. In the process, I acquired a number of contacts who've fought over the ground there, so I consider myself reasonably well informed.

As a result of that you should be aware that my take on Afghanistan is perhaps different then you might expect, given your comments.

In fact, if it were my call, I wouldn't have sent an army to a landlocked country surrounded by hostile territory and dependent on bribes to Pakistan to keep it's lifeline open. And I certainly wouldn't send more.

75% of the materials our war there depends on pass through the Pakistani port of Karachi and the Torkhum Pass..and the Pakis have interrupted supplies there on several occasions just to remind us of the hold they have on us.

There are several differences between the two situations you mention.

The first one is that President Obama had a detailed intel analysis presented to him by the Bush Administration when he walked in the door back in January..even if he later lied about it.

Furthermore, Obama ordered another intel analysis of his own which was completed back in March, which he also failed to act on. We're now almost in December. You can't blame that sort of dithering on the 'fighting season', which at any rate doesn't apply to the whole country (just take a look at the casualty lists, which have spiked in the last few months).

Another difference is that Obama only had one war to deal with, thanks to what our warriors accomplished in Iraq.

That said, you're correct about the Iraq Study Group, which was nonsense, and an indication of the fact that President Bush held on to a failed strategy in Iraq far longer than he should of the reasons I was not exactly a fan of our last president, although Barack Obama's tenure in office seems bent on making GWB look like Mount Rushmore material, which I would never have thought possible.

What you neglect to mention is that the Iraq study group was commissioned at the insistence of a cabal of anti-War Democrats who were leading a majority elected at the midterms and in my view, were playing politics with their fellow American's lives..

Not that this absolves President Bush from bending over and going along with it, mind you. But wasn't President Obama elected as the anti-Bush, who was going to be superior in every way? Wasn't he the one who was going to get our NATO allies to kick in troops, who said that Afghanistan was the 'real war', that he was going to send troops immediately to win it as soon as he got into office?

Wasn't it Barack Obama who claimed he was going to invade Waziristan with two brigades and go after Bin laden? 6,000 men into an area the size of Texas?

When one of my pals in the 10th Mountain ID who was involved in Moutain Thrust heard that one, the clean version of what he e-mailed me is that the wanna-be C in C ought to seek mental help.

Although Obama's threats to invade Pakistan did have the effect of jeopardizing the lifeline to our troops there, and helping to destabilize Musharraf who was at least something of an ally of ours there.

In any event the old schoolyard argument "he did it too!" have any credence? Unless, of course, you're trying to make trivial political hay out of something as serious as war, which I certainly doubt you are.

Thanks for dropping by. Watch your six and come home safe, OK?


Freedom Fighter said...

Spc. Patricks, some unfortunate erratum. The opening sentence of that last para should have read:

"In any event, does the old schoolyard argument "he did it too!" have any credence?"

Also,not that it matters, I've gotten several e-mails from other bloggers on the right side of the spectrum informing me that there is a small but very well organized group of Obama supporters who are active military directed out of the White House whose express assignment is to promote the Administration's point of view and push their agenda via the comments sections of blogs like this.

The term for this sort of thing is 'astro turfing' and Obama consigliare and political advisor David Axelrod is a pioneer of the technique.

I have no problem at all if you're a member of this group, but if you are, the proper thing to do would be to be honest about it.


Anonymous said...

Ah, that would be a negative on the astroturf question, Rob.

I think my main points are, based in part on these two credible sources, as well as by the Pentagon, should anyone care to check, that the specious argument that Pres. Obama is "dithering," in regards to Afghanistan, is a phony controversy.

One that is driven by former VP Cheney, who he himself abetted our taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, but has nonetheless been apparently accepted by the cable news opinion pundits to be offering the credible criticism of some kind of reliable oracle on foreign policy and nat'l security, despite the provable fact that there simply are not enough troops, at present, to fulfill Gen. McCrystal's request.

Besides having to wait for the next wave of soldiers and Marines to finish basic training and their AIT, those available to go now would be sent with the risk of damage and broken promises to our very willing to continue the fight but also very overworked ground forces.

This dynamic also raises the very fair question about how much of Mr. Cheney's complaint of some playing the fiddle while Rome burns is itself a desperate propaganda ploy designed to shift blame for the Bush administration's indefensible orphaning of the Afghanistan campaign.

Again, these are my own facts, analysis and opinions. Those with the lowly rank of "specialist" do not speak for anybody else higher up the food chain.


Spc. Patricks

Al Asad, Iraq

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Patricks,
In all fairness, I think you failed to address the main points I raised, and are slippin' and slidin' quite a bit.

If was you who raised the point that President Obama shouldn't be criticized for dithering because 'Bush did it'.Aside from being a poor argument in itself to justify anything, I just showed that to be simply wrong, first about Bush and the so-called Iraq study group and second about the fact that Obama lied about having an intel plan in hand the day he took office.

Secondly, it was Obama himself who opened his mouth about how he was immediately going to send troops to Afghanistan,how he was going to invade Pakistan and about how he was going to get our NATO allies to kick in troops. The fact that he didn't know what he was talking about and hasn't followed through is Dick Cheney's fault somehow?

Obama's been in office almost a year. Has he done any of what he said he was going to do? Has he done anything at all about Afghanistan except make things worse by alienating Karzai?

Sure seems to me like 'dithering' is an appropriate description.

Oh, you might want to know,just for giggles...Senator Obama was the head of the Senate Subcommittee charged with formulating policy to get more troops out of our NATO allies.He was too busy running for president to convene that subcommittee even once.

This briefly came out during the debates, but McCain was too inept to bring the point home and emphasize it.

As for what ex-VP Cheney had to say, you might want to recall that he only opened up on Obama after Obama blatantly lied about not being presented with a full intel analysis by the Bush Administration the day he walked into the Oval Office.Cheney was perfectly within his rights to call him on it.

I also don't agree with you thatAfghanistan was 'orphaned'. Far from being orphaned, Afghanistan was held while the war against al-Qaeda was being fought in Iraq as the main emphasis and only heated up as Iraq became more quiescent. You of all people ought to know that first hand.

IMO Afghanistan is and should be a minor front in this war anyway, but that's a whole other discussion.

And if you're correct about there not being enough troops,didn't Obama have business to get them out of there instead of dithering for months and playing games?

Redeployment and regrouping is also action, isn't it Spc Patricks?

As a matter of fact, if you read the links I provided in my original reply to you , there are credible strategies for holding Afghanistan with far less troops than we have there now, formulated by people familiar with the facts on the ground who know the situation. If we don't have the troops, can you riddle me why nothing like that has ever been tried by this Administration?

It's really pretty simple. The President didn't do anything on Afghanistan all these months because of the politics, trying to balance avoiding admitting he made an ass of himself during the campaign yakking about 'the real war' on the one hand while appeasing his Leftist base who want a pull out at all costs on the other.

You're obviously a fan of this president. I find that a little hard to swallow considering the policies he voted for as a Senator (when he bothered to vote)directly endangered you and your comrades there in the field and his genrally demonstrated incompetence in national security and foreign policy matters since he took office, but you're certainly entitled.

Facts are facts,nevertheless.

Thanks for dropping by.