Blogs » Politcs Plus » The AfPak decision



I recommend reading Bob Woodward's book" Obama's Wars" if you're interested in the complexity of uniting the military, politicians, the administration, and foreign heads of state to a single goal. As of yet I have not heard anyone contradict the validity of the facts Mr. Woodward presented in this book. Most of Mr. Woodward's material comes from the written record and such as the National Security Council meeting notes, PowerPoint slides emails, government cables, calendars, transcripts, diaries and maps. Mr. Woodward also interviewed many of the people he wrote about.

I have to admit I was surprised at the pettiness of our leaders. A good example of that came in the first chapter when Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence(DNI) refused to meet with members of the transition team, John Podesta and James Steinberg because President Bush had given him explicit orders to give information only to the president- elect. President Bush didn't want what he called "tourist" and " professors" who would look at the material and later leak it to the press or in revealing it in a book. You would be amazed as to how much time was devoted to semantics. Early on the president realized that the real problem was in Pakistan but all our troops were fighting in Afghanistan. He wanted to rename the strategy "AfPak" but many feared that it would hurt Pakistan's feelings. They took the word " winning" off the table because the metrics couldn't be defined or met. That left the military arguing over whether to use the word " disrupt or defeat" in explaining our mission. They finally settled on disrupting the Taliban. It would take another two and three blog to explain the daily quarrels on whether to use counterterrorism or counterinsurgency methods.

I was an ardent critic of president Obama for escalating the war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 additional troops. The last three chapters of the book explained what went into making that decision. I believe it was General Jim Jones, who jokingly cautioned president Obama saying that the military would ask for 50,000 troops just to erect a school crossing guard. The first initial proposal of 40,000 was submitted by general McChrystal and supported by general Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen.... Secretary of defense Robert Gates wanted 30,000 and president Obama was thinking more in a range of 10,000-20,000. It didn't take long for president Obama to realize that there was nothing magic about 40,000; even though the PowerPoint slides looked impressive. It would require a Ph.D in Afghan culture to really understand what the numbers meant. He looked around a room and realized that he was he would be the only one in the room to see this mission through; success or failure. Initially, the president settled on 20,000, but he heard through the grapevine that secretary of defense Robert Gates would resign if he did that. It was then that president Obama decided on 30,000 with stipulations that we would be making serious withdrawals in July of 2011. He insisted that nation building(counterinsurgency) was not an option, and he went around the room asking if everyone was on board. The president read the reasons for failure in Vietnam and Iraq and the words from General Eisenhower about the evils of the military industrial complex before making this important decision. I will still be a critic if we only withdraw a token 5,000 in July and another 5,000 in December, unless we show some significant improvement. I don't see how we can do that if Afghanistan's government will still be corrupt, and they will still have an untrainable military and police force. The president has favored vice president Joe Biden's counterterrorism plan, and I hope he turns to that if the current strategy is not working because al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan.

I didn't want to violate any copyright laws, so I paraphrased a lot, but I didn't inject my opinion into Woodward's words. The book is favorable to president Obama, but it also sheds light on how some decisions are made. I got a big kick out of one part where former United States Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, was fired by president Obama but told that he could make up a story as to why he was leaving and the administration would back him on it. Dennis Blair didn't get it, because he wasn't having family problems, and he didn't want to leave and pursue other options. I think that we all chuckle when someone in any administration leaves saying it's to spend more time with their family.We all know they were fired or going to be.There are times when the stress of the job takes its toll but they were all forewarned.