No, General McChrystal hasn’t been demoted already – it’s an old photo.
Well, today General Stanley McChrystal went to the White House, resignation letter in hand. About time. An article by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone has revealed him as the leader of an arrogant staff who billed themselves ironically as “Team America,” a reference to the film “Team America: World Police” (2004).
McChrystal and his inner circle, perhaps irritated by the almost-immediate failure of their Afghanistan counterinsurgency strategy, expressed extreme annoyance at President Obama and most of the administration’s national security officials (with the notable exception of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).
On Danger Room, they weigh the problem and the opportunity:
If President Obama fires McChrystal, there’s a very real possibility of months of chaos as the commands switch over—just as there was last year, when McKiernan was axed. Worse still, it’s unclear that McChrystal’s original strategy can be pulled off without his staff there to push it down the chain of command. There’s also another possibility, namely that Team Obama could use this as an opportunity for reversing many of McChrystal’s astoundingly bad decisions (like going into Kandahar in the first place), focusing resources instead on winnable battlegrounds like Kunduz and Herat and Khost.
Unfortunately, whether or not McChrystal and “Team America” remain in charge, the Obama administration still shows no sign of considering a switch to a counter-terrorist strategy in Afghanistan-Pakistan in the near future. That means more reinforcements will be sent, providing more targets for Taliban IEDs. Six more NATO soldiers were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing to 75 the number of foreign troops who have died there this month. June 2010 is the worst month for NATO casualties since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.
Here’s a fact that won’t surprise you: Afghanistan ranks in the top ten of the Failed States Index again this year, as it has since the list was first compiled six years ago. In a failed state in the 21st Century, it’s fourth generation warfare (4GW). Counterinsurgency (COIN) is a non-starter.
Even if COIN were possible, it would take more than half a million troops to pacify Afghanistan — the planned 100,000 can’t do it. The key component of the few successful COIN campaigns has always been a strong national government with a good claim to legitimacy. Afghanistan has never had one.
Maybe people would be surprised to learn that U.S. taxpayers are helping to fund the Taliban. U.S. armed forces require a lot of logistical support. Transportation and security for the supplies is contracted out, and the contractors pay protection money to the Taliban for safe passage. A new report released yesterday by the House subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs found that they were paying as much as $1,500 per truck. Investigators say as much as $4 million per week end up in the hands of the Taliban via local security companies in return for not attacking convoys bound for American bases, and some 200 military combat outposts throughout Afghanistan.
Here’s another surprising fact: In Marjah, the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001, has not defeated the Taliban after four months. The 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops provide a ratio of one occupying soldier for every two members of the population. Counter-insurgency doctrine normally calls for one counter-insurgent for every 20-50 people. The “government-in-a-box” arrived, but the box turned out to be empty. Force without good governance isn’t working.
Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marjah is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.
Oh, and that Pentagon-planted New York Times story about $1 trillion in Afghan mineral deposits was nonsense. Afghanistan has no mining industry, and very little water or transportation infrastructure. Not to mention a considerable security problem.
UPDATE: General McChrystal has been relieved of command. CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus is going to take over. President Obama made clear that the change in generals will not bring a change in policy.
Previous One Utah posts in this series:
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (6) (November 11, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (5) (October 25, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (4) (October 7, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (3) (February 27, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (2) (February 3, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (January 29, 2009)