WikiLeaks Bombshell Docs Paint Afghan War as Utter Disaster -- Will We Finally Stop Throwing Money and Lives at This Catastrophe?
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Two Ex-Generals Got It Right
We have another patriotic truth-teller to thank for leaking the texts of cables that Ambassador (and former Lt. Gen.) Karl Eikenberry sent to Washington on Nov. 6 and 9, 2009, several weeks before President Barack Obama made his fateful decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
In a somewhat condescending tone, Eikenberry described the request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, for more troops as “logical and compelling within his narrow mandate to define the needs” of the military campaign.
But then Eikenberry warned repeatedly about “unaddressed variables” like militants’ “sanctuaries” in Pakistan. For example, the ambassador wrote:
“More troops won’t end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain … and Pakistan views its strategic interests as best served by a weak neighbor.”
In Eikenberry’s final try at informing the White House discussion (in his cable of Nov. 9), the ambassador warned pointedly of the risk that “we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves.”
At the time, it seemed that Eikenberry’s message was getting through to the White House. On Nov. 7, Der Spiegel published an interview with National Security Adviser (former Marine General) James Jones, who was asked whether he agreed with Gen. McChrystal that a substantial troop increase was needed. Jones replied:
“Generals always ask for more troops; I believe we will not solve the problem with more troops alone. You can keep on putting troops in, and you could have 200,000 troops there and Afghanistan will swallow them up as it has done in the past.”
However, McChrystal and his boss, then-Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus pressed the case for more troops, a position that had strong support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Vice President Dick Cheney, key hawks in Congress and Washington’s neoconservative-dominated opinion circles.
After months of internal debate, President Obama finally caved in and gave McChrystal nearly all the troops that he had requested. (McChrystal has since been replaced by Petraeus as commander of forces in Afghanistan.)
Despite the fact that the Wikileaks disclosures offer fresh support for the doubters on the Afghan War escalation, Jones acted as the good soldier on Sunday, decrying the unauthorized release of classified information, calling Wikileaks “irresponsible.”
Jones also lectured the Pakistanis:
“Pakistan’s military and intelligence services must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups. The balance must shift decisively against al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. U.S. support for Pakistan will continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups.”
[Note: Okay; he’s a general. But the grammatical mood is just a shade short of imperative. And the tone is imperial/colonial through and through. I’ll bet the Pakistanis are as much swayed by that approach as they have been by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s admonitions not to be concerned about India -- just terrorists.]
And regarding “progress” in Afghanistan? Jones added that “the U.S. and its allies have scored several significant blows against the insurgency.”
However, that’s not the positive spin that Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was offering just four weeks ago. On his way to Kabul, again, Mullen spoke of “recent setbacks in the Afghan campaign.”
“We underestimated some of the challenges” in Marja, the rural area of Helmand province that was cleared in March by U.S. Marines, only to have Taliban fighters return. “They’re coming back at night; the intimidation is still there,” Mullen said.
Of the much more ambitious (and repeatedly delayed) campaign to stabilize the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Mullen said: “It’s going to take until the end of the year to know where we are there.”