Guest Authors

More than McChrystal could handle?

Michael Yon about whom I have written here before, has recently published a following short message on his Facebook:

Life was good before I went to Iraq. But after three friends were killed during the GWOT, and my growing mistrust for the media and for the US Government/Military, I quit traveling the world and went to war. The United States was in peril. I am American. Today, I do not trust McChrystal anymore than some people tru…st the New York Times, Obama or Bush. If McChrystal could be trusted, I would go back to my better life. McChrystal is a great killer but this war is above his head. He must be watched.

Appealing. Michael has been following Iraq and Afghanistan and especially officers, NCOs, GIs, in general military units in areas of operations for too long to just whistling in the wind. I have tried to find other clues for his assertion on his Facebook account, but I have not found any clear ones.

Anyway, the fragmentary message on his FB brings back an idea that the problem is complex. Michael might gain a feeling that situation on the ground is getting worst, the strict rules of engagement tie down soldiers’ hands which evokes discontent and at the same time inability to react properly. But I am sure that there will be more reasons for Michael’s posture, e.g. disagreements with the command.

I was to a certain extent surprised by the tough words that operation in Afghanistan is above general McChrystal’s head. I remember that even during the hardest times in Iraq Michael was an optimist and gave credit to general Petraeus. I remember one discussion we had five years ago in Baqubah which Michael concluded: “Optimists are wrong from time to time but pessimists nearly always”. What is happening with the mission in Afghanistan?

Apparently, the operation in Afghanistan is quite different and much, much more complicated. Moreover, general McChrystal is under overpressure. General Petraeus did not have unlimited time in Iraq, but his hands were more free than general McChrystal’s in Afghanistan. He is asked to do too much and too fast.

NATO is at the moment working hard on the transition of the provinces – list of conditions is being set together. Still this year some provinces must be transferred in order to show progress (an announcement is expected this summer/early autumn). As one diplomat in alliance headquarters in Brussels told us: These must be important provinces and the solution permanent. It would be disaster if we had to return in a couple of months.

Of course, many people have been working seriously on the list of conditions for transition but the political pressure is high – it is important to show some success to the end of this year. Withdrawing at least some of the troops should start next summer and autumn in order to calm down the public in Europe as well as in the U.S. – it is always worth looking at the election calendar. The time is ticking out.

Training of the ANA and ANP has been accelerated and within few months we will hear encouraging speeches of how the situation in Afghanistan is improving. Therefore, we will also hear that “Afghanisation” is the only correct and sustainable approach how to help the Afghans and at the same time conclude the war. Maybe, but is it achievable in the given time? More and more frequently I remind myself of the words by Henry Kissinger (and Richard Nixon) at the end of Vietnam peace negotiations about the “honorable peace”. Aren’t we walking on the similar path in Afghanistan? I do not compare those conflicts. I am speaking about the perception of their outcome. The perceptions matter at the end.

Ferret by which the packet will be tied round is being weaved. The key test will be Kandahar. My estimate is that the offensive can’t fail (at least virtually). Anyway, it is clear that we would learn the whole truth only with difficulties. It is even more clear that if somebody would reveal it to us, I would bet, it would be Michael Yon.

Frantisek Sulc
On War | On Peace


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