Seventy Two days ago President Obama received the assessment, strategic plan and resource request he had ordered from General McChrystal, the man he appointed to command the Afghanistan operation.
As the troops continue to struggle in Afghanistan, the President continues to dither and avoid making a decision.
On Monday CBS reported that the President was just about to announce a decision to send the 40,000 troops Gen. McChrystal requested. But later National Security Advisor Jim Jones issued a written statement emphatically denying any decision had been made.
One might get the impression from establishment media reports that General McChrystal is an uninvited annoyance who suddenly emerged from nowhere, to hassle the President with pleas for more troops and more resources. Actually, the General has only done what Commander in Chief Obama ordered, to accomplish Obama’s announced mission.
On March 27 President Obama delivered a major speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here are some excerpts:
As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.
The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries.
The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act – not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends upon it.
Obama summarized the mission in unambiguous terms:
So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.
President Obama then appointed General McChrystal, one of the nation’s foremost experts on counter-insurgency operations, and directed him to assess the situation in Afghanistan, and develop strategies for accomplishing the mission.
On August 30 General McChrystal submitted his report. Someone in the administration leaked the report to the media, so the whole world knows what it says.
McChrystal began his report with a statement of commitment to the mission that was assigned to him by President Obama:
NATO’s…Military Plan and Pesident Obama’s strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan have laid out a clear path of what we must do. Stability in Afghanistan is an imperative; if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or has insufficient capability to counter transnational terrorists – Afghanistan could again become a base for terrorism, with obvious implications for regional stability.
In his strategy recommendations, McChrystal asserted four “main pillars.” Numbers one and two are the very issues Administration officials have recently floated as pretexts for not accepting McChrystal’s plan and denying his request for additional troops:
- Improve effectiveness through greater partnering with the Afghanistan National Security Forces. We will increase the size and accelerate the growth of the ANSF, with a radically improved partnership at every level, to improve effectivenes and prepare them to take the lead in security operations.
- Prioritize responsive and accountable governance. We must assist in improving governance at all levels through both formal and traditional mechanisms.
- Gain the initiative . Our first impreative, in a series of operational statges, ist to gain the initiative and reverse the insurgency’s momentum.
- Focus Resources. We will prioritize available resources to those critical areas where vulnerble populations are most threatened.
In 66 pages McChrystal lays out detailed strategies and tactics for each of his four pillars, including training Afghan security forces and making the government more responsive and accountable. He explains why all four must be pursued in order to ensure success.
In his report of August 30, General McChrystal did his best to convey a sense of urgency:
Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.
Two of those near-term, twelve months have now been dissipated by the President, who appears to be afraid to commit to the mission and strategies he announced back in March. While the President has turned his desire for a government take-over of health care into an urgent crisis, he appears to see no urgency in General McChrystal’s report.
Obama closed his March speech with these words:
The road ahead will be long. There will be difficult days. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that serve the promise of a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity. That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.
We can only hope that, for the sake of the troops who struggle today in Afghanistan with insufficient resources, that the President believed what he said in March, and that he finally gives the order to deploy the those additional elements of national power requested by McChrystal.