Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Division in the Ranks

The way it is to work amidst general officers in the US Army is that discord among flag ranks is a discreet thing, never to surface publicly outside army circles. So, apart from outside inter-service rivalry chasing defense appropriation dollars or competition for role or missions, clash of generals is rare; it is seldom observed, especially internally within a single service.

So when retired US Army General Karl Eikenberry, now US ambassador to Afghanistan, undermines the recommendations of the top US commander of NATO and American forces, US Army General Stanley McChrystal, it is a seminal moment – it happened last week when Ambassador General Eikenberry cabled the President to hold off on General McChrystal's request for more troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.

General Eikenberry as a serious soldier diplomat is not common in the US government. The last one I recollect was General Maxwell Taylor under JFK. Eikenberry, a West Point cadet of the class of 1973, has had a different career pattern than the usual academy graduate. He had the predictable command and staff ticket-punching assignments, carefully monitored throughout his career, but there was a deviation when he took the risk of stepping out of pattern to learn Chinese Mandarin - he became fluent enough to be certified as an interpreter and is also known to be an expert on Chinese history. He is an Orientalist and unlike General Petraeus, not out of his depth understanding corrosive war-lord culture of corruption. And Eikenberry knows the military situation as he was a US/NATO Commander in Afghanistan.

It was no accident that he blew the whistle on the McChrystal troop surge in Afghanistan and not CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus. The success of Patraeus's counter-insurgency strategy is still in balance in Iraq, especially since the insurgents recently destroyed the large Iraq Ministry of Justice and Baghdad municipal headquarters in the heart of Baghdad; hundreds were killed. The installation’s protection was controlled by Petraeus trained Iraq security that has now since been purged. So perhaps Eikenberry is much less sanguine on the counter insurgency strategy than its proponents, Petraeus and McChrystal, whose reputations ride on its success.

Eikenberry understands that because a US Army field manual was written on counterinsurgency, it does not insure its contents are a reliable guide to action. He also knows that while McChrystal says he can win with 40,000 more troops or less, the general who was relieved by Obama and replaced by McChrystal, General McKiernen, said he needed 400,000 troops realistically to do the job. Obama, like GW Bush, believes he can win on the cheap – doubt Eikenberry believes it.

At least in the short term Eikenberry's challenge to more troop deployments forced the Administration to delay its decision. The president called for a rewrite of the final four options to include an exit strategy. I considered President Obama clearly warned on the perils of escalation in Afghanistan.

There are indications that the US may attempt to rid the Afghan government of corruption and crime ... good luck. Our clueless Hillary has announced setting up a crimes tribunal and corruption commission in Afghanistan. She might try-out pilot projects in Chicago, Detroit, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, places where you might not have your head blown off while trying to make changes in the corrupt political culture. Our Secretary of State must decide the boundaries of US corruption and Afghan corruption before she begins her doomed crusade in Afghanistan.

In the long term, Obama most likely foolishly will deploy more troops to Afghanistan. Even though by now it has dawned on him that extending the military adventure brings little chance of victory; and, that he is in the midst of a civil war and that he is supporting a secular side against the religious elements. As he does this, he dooms the side he supports as it is viewed as a puppet of the infidels by most of the fervid Islamic population.

Costs of extending the war are enormous. It costs over a million dollars per soldier per year to maintain him in theater. Cost of fuel is estimated at 400 dollars a gallon by the time it is in the tanks of vehicles and aircraft. This cost does not include infrastructure projects, replacement of military equipment and equipping Afghan security forces. Any savings the US has from draw-down in Iraq is already devoured by more deployments, up-grading of bomb-proof armored vehicles and the expansion of the drone/Hellfire capability.

The Afghan GNP is estimated at about 23 billion. The US expenditures over there are about 50 billion or more; the whole thing is absurd as well as bloodier and bloodier, as insurgent explosives become more powerful and suicide bombers multiply.

As we know, US deficits are already out of control, so more war increases them and destroys domestic programs. A majority of Americans already do not support the war, but recently on Obama's way to Asia on a stop at Elemendorf AFB in Alaska, he promised an assembled military audience that he would not force them to fight a war not supported by the American people; but at this stage and based on his shaky record, who expects the President to deliver on his promises? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great posts as always. One of the better hidden sites on the Web.

Still not sure what they are thinking here.

Are they trying to bankrupt the country? Marc Faber has come out and said he guarantees the US will go into hyper-inflation. He said this on Bloomberg TV.

At some point the people are going to turn against the war and the military too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Obama crony who's going to bring the country down.

We gotta get this clown out of the white house.


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